A respected Melbourne doctor has been jailed after forcing a refugee to work gruelling hours at his confectionary shop under threats of deportation.
Dr Seyyed Farshchi was sentenced in the Victorian County Court on Tuesday to a three year and six month jail term for the “calculated, manipulative and pernicious” offending.
Chief Judge Peter Kidd found the 50-year-old took advantage of his victim’s “extreme vulnerability” and lack of knowledge of his rights in Australia to coerce him into believing he could not leave the shop.
“Your offending behaviour was unambiguous, the threats you made were explicit in nature, were repeated many times and over a protracted period of time,” he said.
“You were acutely aware … and must have meant this outcome.”
The court was told the man, who cannot be named, fled his home country of Iran and sought asylum in Australia.
In 2015 he responded to a job ad on Facebook looking for employees at Farshchi’s confectionary shop, Candoo Bakery, where he was offered a job as a baker.
Farshchi sold the business in 2018 and no longer has any relation to it, the court was told.
After a one week unpaid trial, Farshchi offered him a job on the condition he complete a three-month unpaid training program — which he was told was “normal in Australia”.
When the training ended in about April or May 2015, he accepted a $10 an hour wage which was often paid late or not at all.
Over the following 20 months the man was worked relentlessly and threatened by Farshchi.
“You made threats about what might happen if he didn’t continue to work at Candoo,” Chief Judge Kidd said.
Farshchi told the man he had “connections” in immigration and could help him, or have him placed in detention or deported.
On one “malicious” occasion, Chief Judge Kidd said, he threatened to have him deported to Iran where he would face the death penalty for converting to Christianity.
In a victim impact statement, the man told the court when he came to Australia with his young family, he had “high hopes and dreams” for the future.
“When I was threatened of being sent back to the detention camp and my country I was terrified,” he said.
“The hope and optimism I had for my and my family future has been stolen from me.”
After a trial last year, Farshchi was found guilty of causing the victim to remain in forced labour and conducted a business using forced labour between July 2015 to March 2017.
Chief Judge Kidd accepted Farshchi’s offending was “aberrant”, that he had previously lived a life of good standing and his family would be significantly affected by his imprisonment.
Farshchi will be eligible for parole after serving 18 months and has been ordered to pay $42,989.82 in reparations to the victim.
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