The lawyer representing the Chinese directors of Leisure Clothing has cried foul over a freezing order on the assets of his clients which did not actually specify any amount.
Edward Gatt asked the court to insist that the prosecution should specify how much of their assets should be frozen through the pre-emptive measure.
This point was debated before the courts as the compilation of evidence continued against Leisure Clothing’s managing director Han Bin and marketing director Jia Liu, 42 months since their arrest and arraignment over human trafficking charges.
Back in 2015, a criminal court had declared that there was sufficient evidence to place the two under a bill of indictment, with the compilation of evidence still ongoing in court.
Earlier on, the court had accepted a request to vary the bail conditions of the accused, reducing their appointment with the bail book from four times a week to once a week.
The case had come to light in October 2014 when several Vietnamese nationals, formerly working at the Bulebel factory, had been arrested while attempting to leave the island with false Italian identity documents. The workers had told the police that they had not been paid the agreed wages and that their passports had been withheld by the company.
These allegations had sparked off a police investigation which resulted charges pressed against the directors of the company which has since been shut down.
In one previous sitting, a string of Vietnamese employees had testified as to how they used to be paid some €200-€300 monthly – half the amount they had been promised, and well below the minimum wage – for a 12-hour work day, seven days a week.
Their passports had been confiscated by their employer upon their arrival in Malta.
Magistrate Ian Farrugia is presiding over the compilation, originally assigned to another magistrate who has since retired from the bench.
Inspector Joseph Busuttil is leading the prosecution.
Lawyers Edward Gatt and Pio Valletta are defence counsel to the company directors.
Lawyers Karl Briffa, Katrine Camilleri and Michael Camilleri are appearing parte civile for the workers.