A court in central Finland has handed down a 20-month suspended prison sentence to a berry firm owner convicted of trafficking 26 people from Thailand to pick berries in Finnish forests. He was also convicted of fraud and violations of waste management laws.
The prosecutor said in court that the plaintiffs had to work 15-hour days, and much of their earnings went to pay off debts accrued from their journey to Finland. The pickers were accommodated in trailers and shipping containers, which also hosted their sanitary and food preparation facilities.
Court orders compensation, legal costs
In addition to his suspended jail term, the owner has been banned from serving as a company director for three years and ordered to pay a total of 200,000 euros in compensation to the 26 plaintiffs in the case.
He will also have to cover their legal costs of some 127,000 euros, but his lawyer indicated to Yle that he would appeal the verdict.
Berry pickers in Finland have been legally regarded as entrepreneurs, and therefore outside the purview of sector-based labour agreements.