Seven suspects who were arrested for alleged human trafficking and violation of South Africa’s labour laws were denied bail on Friday at the Johannesburg Magistrate’s Court.
The seven suspects, who are from China, were arrested in November last year in a joint operation conducted by the Department of Employment and Labour’s Inspection and Enforcement Services (IES) branch in Gauteng, together with the South African Police Service (SAPS), Home Affairs and the Hawks.
The arrests followed a tip-off that the Chinese nationals were allegedly involved in the trafficking of illegal immigrants into South Africa and subjecting them to forced labour.
The suspects included four males and three females – Kevin Tsao, Chen Hui, Qin Li, Jiaqing Zhou, Ma Biao, Dai Junying, and Zhang Zhilian.
The suspects were operating a factory called Beautiful City (Pty) Ltd located at Village Deep, Johannesburg.
Ninety-one Malawian nationals were found in the factory, and 37 of them were children. The court has since heard that the Malawians working in the factory were transported to South Africa in containers.
The Malawians are alleged to have been brought to South Africa by a middleman known as “the transporter”, who is still on the run.
In an affidavit submitted by the SAPS/Hawks in court, the authorities intend to charge the accused with schedule six offences.
The suspects will face charges ranging from human trafficking, debt bondage and kidnapping to pointing of a firearm.
They have been remanded in custody and will appear again in court on April 30.