Doctor jailed after forcing refugee to work at Melbourne sweet shop

Doctor jailed after forcing refugee to work at Melbourne sweet shop

A Melbourne doctor who forced an asylum seeker to work against his will at a sweet shop has been sentenced to three and a half years in jail.

Seyyed Farshchi threatened to contact immigration authorities and have the victim deported, and paid him just $10 an hour for his work.

Farshchi will serve three and a half years in jail and has been ordered to pay $43,000 in reparations to the victim.

A Melbourne doctor has been jailed for three and a half years after using deportation threats to force a refugee to work at his sweet shop.

Seyyed Farshchi was sentenced in Victoria’s County Court on Tuesday after being found guilty last year of two forced labour offences.

He was also ordered to pay nearly $43,000 in reparations to the victim, whom he forced to work for 20 months.

The court heard the victim, a refugee from Iran, arrived in Melbourne in 2015 looking for work and found a job advertisement for the Candoo Confectionery shop in Box Hill, which was then owned by Farshchi.

After an unpaid training period that lasted months, Farshchi began paying the victim just $10 an hour for work that he described as physically exhausting.

The victim said he was regularly forced to work 14-hour shifts at the shop, which Farshchi sold in 2018.


Box Hill Sweet Shop
The refugee was forced to work long hours at the Box Hill shop for 20 months for little pay.(ABC News: Peter Healy)

The court heard that the victim had only a rudimentary grasp of English, and had no knowledge of the Australian minimum wage or employment law.

County Court Chief Judge Peter Kidd said Farshchi was acutely aware the victim was vulnerable to exploitation, and that before long the employment conditions “took on a more sinister character”.

Carrot-and-stick approach used on victim, court told

Prosecutors argued Farshchi used a “carrot-and-stick” method to control his employee.

Claiming to have connections with the Department of Immigration, the doctor made repeated promises he would help with the victim’s visa application and made assurances he would assist the victim to buy a home.

When this failed to come to fruition and the victim again raised the issue of his pay, Farshchi threatened to report the victim to Centrelink for working without paying tax and claimed he would use his connections to have the victim deported.


Seyyed Farshchi
Seyyed Farshchi was charged in 2019 with causing a person to remain in forced labour.(ABC News: Karen Percy)

Farshchi also threatened to divulge that the victim had converted to Christianity, claiming that he would be killed for it when deported back to Iran.

“The hope and optimism I had for my future and my family has been stolen from me,” the victim told the court.

Doctor showed no remorse for crime: judge

Farshchi appeared at the sentencing hearing in a blue suit, and smiled and shook hands with those in attendance.

The court received 15 character references for Farshchi, which in turn described him as a pillar of the local community and as a kind, caring and generous professional man.

“The distinct impression one gets … is that your offending was completely out of character,” Chief Judge Kidd said.

Chief Judge Kidd said it was clear Farshchi had not shown any repentance for his treatment of the staff member or an understanding of the harm he had caused.

“It is my view that you have shown no remorse or contrition,” he said.

“You have never acknowledged this conduct, you have shown no insight into this wrongdoing or its full consequences.”

Describing his behaviour as “calculated, manipulative and pernicious,” Chief Judge Kidd sentenced Farshchi to serve three years and six months behind bars.

He also ordered the doctor to pay $42,989.82 in reparations to the victim, representing the unpaid wages of nearly two years of forced labour.

Farshchi’s wife Naghmeh Mostafaei had been charged with aiding and abetting her husband, but was found not guilty by a jury.

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