Victorian Vegetable Grower Paid Vast Amounts of CASH for ILLEGAL WORKERS … Melbourne Court Told

AND this is the tip of the iceberg (lettuce) … as well

THIS has been going on for years … the narrative given is of particular interest … it gives a glimpse of what and how the so-called systems we have in place are in fact …

-not thorough on arrival
-no follow-up to reduce the number of over stayers

THE LIST goes on …

IS it a tacit acceptance by the Federal Government (Scomo Govt) to allow this to go as it puts downward pressure on wages?

AND is …

disruptive to the AWARD WAGE SYSTEM


-money laundering

-visa manipulation

Victorian vegetable grower paid ‘vast amounts of cash’ for illegal workers, Melbourne court told

By court reporter Karen Percy


Seasonal Worker Programme participants, from Vanuatu, harvest asparagus at Kooweerup, in Victoria.

PHOTO: The court heard the illegal workers packed broccoli and asparagus on the farm. (ABC Rural: Laura Poole, file photo)RELATED STORY: Illegal farm workers detained in farm raid

A Victorian vegetable grower has been accused of taking part in a multi-million-dollar scheme involving the illegal use of foreign workers to pack vegetables, a Melbourne court has heard.

Key points:

  • Giuseppe Vizzarri, his company and another man, Sarith Kit, are facing more than 100 charges each
  • Foreign workers were found illegally packing asparagus and broccoli grown on the Koo Wee Rup farm
  • The court was told “vast amounts of cash” were paid into banks and withdrawn in cash for the workers

On December 2, 2016, agents from the Australian Border Force (ABF) raided the Vizzarri farm in Koo Wee Rup, about 75 kilometres south-east of Melbourne and found 90 foreigners working illegally inside the packing shed.

Giuseppe Vizzarri and his company M&G Vizzarri Pty Ltd are facing 107 charges — including “knowing or being reckless” to the fact the workers were not able to work under the Migration Act.

Some of the alleged victims were not allowed to work at all, others were in breach of their visa conditions by working at the farm.

A man with grey hair wearing a suit walks down steps outside court with his hands in his pockets with others surrounding him.

PHOTO: Australian Border Force officials raided Giuseppe Vizzarri’s farm in late 2016. (ABC News: Karen Percy)

*Another man, Sarith Kit, faces 109 charges — the same ones as the company, plus two other charges of money laundering.

The men and women — from Indonesia, Cambodia, Malaysia and Thailand — were employed on a casual basis to pack asparagus and broccoli grown on the farm, the court was told.

Workers’ attendance marked by drivers, court told

There were “all sorts of shenanigans being used to describe the employment arrangements entered in to,” prosecutor Gavin Silbert QC told the court during a committal hearing which began on Wednesday.

Workers were brought in by word of mouth, the court heard.

Some workers were employed as drivers who “transported workers to the farm and recorded their attendance,” Mr Silbert said.

Some also operated as recruiters.

A man with black hair wearing a dark blue jacket and light coloured pants walks down the steps outside court.

PHOTO: Sarith Kit is accused of running a sham labour hire company that employed illegal migrant workers. (ABC News: Karen Percy)

The court heard “vast amounts of cash” — in the millions of dollars — was paid by M&G Vizzarri to companies run by Mr Kit known as VNT Golden Pty Ltd and STN8 Pty Ltd.

The money was then withdrawn in cash and given to the Vizzarri workers.

*”They were paid well below award rates under the disguise of being legitimate arrangements of the labour hire companies,” Mr Silbert said.

Mr Kit is also charged with dealing with the proceeds of crime, after ABF officers seized $455,490 in Australian currency and $US15,200 in cash after a raid on his home.

Chheang Ghek Kim Tang is also charged with dealing with the proceeds of crime.

A close-up photograph of baby broccoli growing in a field.

PHOTO: The workers packed broccoli and asparagus on the farm. (ABC News: Jeremy Story Carter, file photo)

Defence lawyer for Mr Vizzarri and his company, Justin Hannebery QC, said his client was charged with immigration offences, not exploiting workers or the underpayment of workers.

Tito Hardian Sukamto, from Indonesia, gave evidence that he started working at Vizzarri farms in September 2015.

He was a driver who ensured other workers got to the Vizzarri farm, keeping records of their attendance.

He also helped recruit others to work on the farm but stopped when he found it too stressful, a statement tendered to the court shows.

The statement was made on the day of the ABF raid.

‘No-one ever asked about my visa status’

*During cross-examination Mr Sukamto admitted he knew when he arrived on a 10-day holiday visa in January 2008 that he intended to stay on.

“I was told I could find someone who could change the visitor visa to a visa to study,” Mr Sukamto said via a translator.

Instead he applied for a protection visa on the grounds he had cancer, telling immigration officials he wanted to stay in Australia to ensure he got better medical treatment, the court heard.

He told police that a Cambodian man called Mr Lee was in charge of finding workers at Vizzarri farms.

Asparagus lays on a table.

PHOTO: Mr Silbert told the court the workers were paid well below award rates. (ABC Rural: Olivia Garnett, file photo)

“Lee is at the farm all day, everyday that we work. He has around 100 workers at the farm. He does not work, he just supervises,” he said.

His statement showed he worked 50 to 60 hours a week, earning an hourly rate of $18.

“No-one at the farm has ever asked me about my visa status,” he said in a statement tendered to the court.

Another man, Agus Yusta Pradnyana, worked at a number of farms including the Vizzarri property.

*The court heard he came to Australia from Bali in 2012 with his mother on a holiday visa.

His aim, the court heard, was to work to pay off his father’s debts.

He applied for a protection visa the day he arrived in Sydney, the court was told.

He started at Vizzarri in September 2015 and was also a driver.

A statement showed the workers were paid on Fridays.

Cash was put inside envelopes with the worker’s hours and total pay written on them, as well as a number identifying them.

Mr Pradnyana was number 602, his statement showed.

He was paid $15 for packing and $18 when he drove the vans.

He was not working at the farm the day of the raid, the court was told.

During cross-examination by lawyer Simon Moglia — representing Mr Kit and Ms Tang — both men admitted they knew they could not work before they left their home countries.

In a statement tendered to the court, Mr Pradnyana also said he was never asked by anyone at Vizzarri farms if he had a visa to work.

The committal hearing continues in front of Magistrate Peter Reardon.