Six people and three companies are tried from July 1 to 3 by the criminal court of Reims, suspected of having supplied Champagne winegrowers with agricultural labor, mainly migrants, employed in unworthy conditions.
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The accused individuals, managers of companies providing agricultural services and self-employed workers working in the Marne and Aube regions, are being prosecuted in particular for " aggravated concealed work and recourse to the service of a person carrying out aggravated concealed work ", " employment of 'untitled foreigners ', ' unworthy accommodation conditions ' and ' trafficking in human beings '.
The case began in August 2018 when investigators from the Marne Departmental Anti-Fraud Operational Committee (Codaf), a state service, discovered at the home of a wine supplier in Oiry (Marne), near Épernay, de many illegal workers.
A “well established” scenario
According to the story of the investigators from the Central Office to Combat Illegal Work (OCLTI), in charge of the investigation with the gendarmes of the SR of Reims and groups of the Marne and Aube, these wine workers, some of whom were in an irregular situation, were subjected to trying daily rhythms and received " insignificant " remuneration . Some of them even received no salary.
" The scenario was well established, " explains Sylvie Ody, president of the Committee against modern slavery, civil party, who accompanies three Afghan victims in their thirties. The workforce “ was recruited from migrant camps or reception centers for asylum seekers (Cada). The workers left in vans from Paris, Amiens or Chartres to Champagne where they were accommodated in unacceptable conditions , ”she explains.
" They were crowded to fifteen or twenty per room in unsanitary accommodation, without access to hygiene, malnourished, working more than twelve hours a day for insignificant or even non-existent remuneration for some of them ", underlines she.
At the end of the investigations, supported by the labor inspectorate and the Mutualité sociale agricole, 338,000 euros of criminal assets were seized. The facts covered relate to 2017 and 2018, for 188 victims, Afghan and African, mostly undocumented, according to Ms. Ody.
For the latter, the phenomenon is far from isolated in the Champagne vineyards. " Already in 2014, Polish seasonal workers were discovered by the gendarmerie in another wine - growing operation, " she recalls.
In addition to their managers, four of whom are under judicial supervision and face up to 10 years' imprisonment, the companies Serviti, Viti-Chenille and Rajviti are also prosecuted. No champagne house, however, has been criminally challenged.