The manufacturing section of Leisure Clothing, the company at the heart of human trafficking allegations against its directors, has closed its doors, the Malta Independent can reveal.
In 2015 Managing director Han Bin, from San Gwann, and marketing director Jia Liu, from Birzebbuga, have been charged with human trafficking and breaching a number of employment violations over the conditions endured by Vietnamese and Chinese workers.
At the time the workers’ accommodation quarters where the Hal-Far barracks. Upon visiting the barracks as part of its investigation, The Malta Independent has learnt through nearby sources that the workers had vacated their accommodation some four months ago. Sources say that the nine witnesses who testified in the human trafficking and employment violation case are still in Malta today. Local media reports have said that after the story broke out, the company made some efforts to improve conditions – this does not necessarily indicate that conditions were brought in line with the law however.
Throughout court proceedings, workers at the factory testified that they had only received some €150 every two months. A separate worker took the witness stand to say that she was initially prevented from seeing a doctor after she fell ill. Multiple sources have confirmed that the workers were employed on a definite contract, however the time period covered by the contract is not known. Questions have been sent to ascertain whether the workers have been sent back home, and whether there was no mistreatment when they were made redundant.
Roughly 260 workers were placed in the Hal Far barracks, who brought to light the allegedly unhealthy and illegal working conditions they were made to endure.
In February 2016, local media reports said that the company would be sending back Vietnamese and North Korean workers over the abusive working conditions allegations, and that it would keep Chinese workers. Sources at the accommodation said that there are no more workers – it remains unclear whether they were all actually sent back home, whether some have been placed somewhere else in Malta and whether they received all payment owed to them for the hours worked.
Leisure Clothing company will be moving into other business, a spokesman for the management said.
Neither Government nor the General Workers Union have issued any statements regarding the future of Leisure Clothing. Prior the 2013 election the Labour Party had promised to revive the clothing industry which according to former Minister Austin Gatt was a dead industry.