Ming Moon 'slavery' raid: 'We are not gang masters', insist angry restaurant bosses
The owners of Wolverhampton's Ming Moon Chinese restaurant hit back today after a police raid over slavery claims, declaring: "We are not gang masters."
Ming Moon and a number of other restaurants were raided last week in what police described as a blitz on suspected modern slavery around the West Midlands.
- MORE: Police launch major raid on Wolverhampton's Ming Moon Chinese restaurant in 'modern slavery' swoops
Officers said five men suspected to have been working for little or no money were taken away from the landmark Stafford Road building.
Police said 12 suspected slavery victims were found at the Wing Wah restaurant in Coventry, which is owned by the same group. West Midlands Police today said its investigation was ongoing.
WATCH: Ming Moon staff and solicitor speak out
But today, solicitor Ian Henery held a press conference on behalf of restaurant bosses, and claimed: "All restaurant employees caught up in this have been shocked and traumatised."
"Following allegations of suspected salves being found at Wing Wah Coventry and Ming Moon Wolverhampton, my clients categorically deny any wrongdoing and are full co-operating with the police to resolve this as a matter of urgency."
Mr Henery claimed all those described by police as suspected slaves 'were either returned to the respective restaurants or released to walk home later that day.'
The statement continued: "None had needed to be rescued and the police have not needed to take anyone to live in special safe houses.
"No further action has been taken by the police."
All employees at both restaurants were paid at least the statutory minimum wage and extra hours worked could be claimed back in lieu, Mr Henery said.
Photos Mr Henery said showed staff accommodation at each of the restaurants were produced as part of the briefing.
Current employees present at the briefing described the moment they found out about the raids.
Louise Cooke, 21, of Oxley is employed at Ming Moon as a cleaner and waitress. In her statement read at the briefing, she said: "I was very angry about the way the police have portrayed the Ming Moon. If there was any human trafficking I would not be making this statement.
"I had to clean up the mess that the police left and was doubly angry that they made work for me because it was necessary to make such a mess.
"The Ming Moon are modern employers who believe in equality and have employed me even though I have three disabilities.
"This is my first job and if the Ming Moon had not employed me, I don't think I would have ever had a job. The Ming Moon supports me with my disabilities and make allowances so I can work and support my family."
WATCH: The Express & Star was invited to last week's raid
During a question and answer session at the briefing, Mr Henery added: "My clients are not gang masters, they provide local jobs for the local community.
"The whole thing was a media circus.
"What I will say to West Midlands Police is whoops! Watch this space."
Following the raids, a 49-year-old man and woman aged 45, both Slovakian, were arrested on suspicion of slavery offences. They have been released on bail pending further investigation. They are not employees of Wing Wah or Ming Moon, but police said last week they were suspected of having provided staff through a recruitment consultancy.
West Midlands Police said this afternoon: "Our investigation is ongoing. Two people remain on police bail pending further enquiries."
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