Update … pre-trial directions hearing set down for May 2020
Victorian workers illegally employed on Vizzarri vegetable farm never paid
Updated 28 February 2020
By court reporter Karen Percy
PHOTO: The charges against Giuseppe Vizzarri stem from a raid on his farm in 2016. (AAP: James Ross)
RELATED STORY: Agus was identified as number 602. He was one of 90 workers allegedly illegally employed on a Victorian farm
Foreigners discovered working illegally at a Gippsland vegetable farm three years ago were not paid for their hours after Australian Border Force officers seized their pay packets, court documents show.
- Court documents showed workers were paid $14–18 per hour
- One witness said he was not paid for five days’ work washing asparagus at the farm because envelopes of cash payments were taken during a border force raid
- Witnesses have said they were never asked about their visa status but also admitted they knew they were not legally allowed to work
Giuseppe Vizzarri, his company M&G Vizzarri Pty Ltd, and Sarith Kit each face more than 100 charges of breaching the Migration Act after 90 foreigners were apprehended during the December 2016 raid on Vizzarri Farms in Koo Wee Rup as part of the Australian Border Force’s (ABF) Operation Kippage.
Documents show $11 million was transferred from the Vizzarri company to V&T Golden Enterprises and STN Seven Pty Ltd — companies allegedly run by Mr Kit — between August 2015 and December 2016.
Mr Kit also faces two charges of money laundering after $450,000 was allegedly found in his home. He’s alleged to have run what prosecutors described as “sham” labour-hire companies.
Yesterday, Magistrate Peter Reardon committed the men for trial — as well as a woman, Chheang Ghek Kim Tang, who faces money laundering charges only.
They appeared briefly in the County Court today.
PHOTO: Sarith Kit is accused of running a sham labour hire company that employed illegal migrant workers. (ABC News: Karen Percy)
Worker says he was never paid after raids
*The documents showed cash withdrawals were made by associates of Mr Kit and used to pay wages to workers that were below the award rate.
A statement from Ngurah Bayu Putra Mandala — who was a witness in the two-day committal hearing this week — said he was not paid for five days’ work washing asparagus at the farm.
He came to Australia from Indonesia on a student visa and worked on several farms, before arriving at Vizzarri Farms just before the raids.
“I did not get paid for work completed at Vizzarri Farms as the envelopes were taken by immigration,” he said in his statement.
PHOTO: The workers packed broccoli and asparagus on the farm. (supplied)
The ABF seized 180 pay envelopes with an employee number, the date and currency amounts written on them, a statement from ABF investigator Simone Mendes showed.
Bundles of timesheets were also seized, as well as banking statements, invoices and other business documentation from Vizzarri Farms and Mr Kit.
Workers were paid $14–18 per hour, more if they were drivers, the documents showed.
The workers gave evidence that they dealt with a man they knew as Mr Lee.
Ms Mendes’s statement indicated Mr Lee was in fact Sarith Kit.
PHOTO: Former workers from the farm told the court they were underpaid and were never asked about their visa status.
Witnesses say they were never asked about their visa status
Different drivers were used to pick up workers, the documents revealed.
While court documents showed some visa checks were done, several witnesses at this week’s committal said they had never been asked about their visa status.
“Everyone in the community knew that during the busy season, Vizzarri Farms would hire people without documents because they needed a lot of people to work,” an Indonesian worker named Fitri said in a statement.
Mr Vizzarri attended court today alongside his wife, Anne-Marie Vizzarri, who is named as a director of the company M&G Vizzarri.
His lawyer indicated it was “in dispute” that he was aware of the employment arrangements.
Lawyers for Mr Kit and Ms Tang cross-examined witnesses during the committal procedure, who admitted they knew they were not legally allowed to work.
They are all due back in court in May for a pre-trial directions hearing.