Man jailed for exploiting couple who came to Sweden to study and work

Man jailed for exploiting couple who came to Sweden to study and work
The couple were dependent on the man for housing, the court heard. Photo: Henrik Montgomery/TT
A Swedish court has sentenced a 50-year-old restaurant owner for exploiting a young couple who came to Sweden to study and work – in a unique sentence and landmark trial.

Norrköping District Court on Thursday found the restaurant owner guilty of 'human exploitation' (människoexploatering) – the first time anyone has been convicted of that crime in Sweden.

The young couple, both in their mid-20s and described by the court as “well-educated” but without knowledge of Swedish labour laws, had recently arrived in Sweden where one of them had been accepted to university.

This is when they came in contact with the man. 

When they struggled to find a place to live in Sweden, he first offered them an apartment located above his restaurant, then later jobs in return for 100 kronor ($10.55) an hour and a room and board.

But the couple ended up working long hours without any money paid out. When they demanded to be paid, the man threatened them with deportation, violence and a weapon, alternatively a fake weapon.

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The man told the trial the couple had never worked at the restaurant, but based on witness statements from other staff, the court rejected his claim.

“Furthermore, they were in a difficult situation as they were completely new to Sweden, spoke English but not Swedish, lacked accommodation, worked and did not get paid but stayed because they did not have any other accommodation,” reads the court judgement, seen by The Local.

The court found that evidence showed that the couple had worked around 11-12 hours six to seven days a week in return for a salary corresponding to 19 and 28 kronor, respectively, an hour.

It said these working conditions were “clearly unreasonable” and sentenced the restaurant owner to eight months in jail, and ordered damages to be paid out to the couple.


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