Exploiting the vulnerable: Alleged beatings and modern slavery in Nepali restaurant trade

Investigations involving money are not always about kleptocrats and big corporations: some of the biggest perpetrators of exploitative finance also exist in everyday life.

An investigation led by Namrata Sharma, the former chair of the Centre for Investigative Journalism in Nepal, in collaboration with Luc Caregari from Reporter.lu and Finance Uncovered, was a harrowing illustration of that.

Building on a previous story involving human trafficking and modern slavery in the Nepali restaurant trade in Finland, Namrata used her extensive contacts in the south Asian migrant community across Europe to expose alleged wrongdoings in one of the continent’s richest countries, Luxembourg. Her story was published in the Nepali Times in August 2021.

Workers at a popular Nepali restaurant in the Grand Duchy told her of serial beatings and other human rights abuses by the owner. Not only that, they also alleged he had effectively trafficked them from Nepal, luring them to Luxembourg by providing money for their work permits, then confiscating their passports and controlling their bank accounts as he shammed the authorities into believing they were properly salaried employees – while in reality withdrawing their wages for himself and making them work for free for a year.

Initially deterred from speaking about by the fear of repercussions from the small, closed Nepali community in Luxembourg, the workers had the courage to blow the whistle and take their allegations to the police. The investigations are ongoing.

Namrata (pictured above) believes there is a significant pattern in the way some Nepali restaurateurs operate in Europe. She is working with other whistleblowers and is trying to trace if and how profits made from such exploration are laundered back home in Nepal.

*Main photo shows the scarred head of an alleged victim who claimed he was regularly beaten by the owner of the restaurant he worked in.

*Anyone wishing to provide any additional information on similar practices can contact us here confidentially at Finance Uncovered and we will pass on your details to Namrata if requested.

*Namrata attended our Money Trail training session in Jakarata in February 2019. Her investigation was funded by Journalismfund.eu as part of the Money Trail project.