The couple ran a leather goods company on the outskirts of Florence called Samipell Srl. This business—a subcontractor to the Burberry supplier Tivoli Group Spa—allegedly exploited at least 40 immigrant workers.
Burberry is not accused of any wrongdoing and was not named in the police’s statement.
According to a police statement cited by Reuters, the two individuals and two other family members made immigrant workers from countries including China, Pakistan and Bangladesh work up to 14 hours a day for just over 3 euros an hour. In addition to arresting the two individuals, the Italian police reportedly seized 523,000 euros ($634,247) and placed restrictive measures on the two family members, including a ban on them leaving the country.
A transcript included with the pair’s arrest warrant cited a wiretapped phone conversation in which one of the individuals under investigation told a Tivoli employee that he would make workers labor through the night to dye “Title” bags—a type of handbag sold by Burberry—if needed.
Samipell was founded in 2014 and declared bankrupt by a Florence court in March, according to the warrant. It also said the couple had opened and closed multiple leather goods companies since 2013 to evade taxes and the authorities, all while maintaining the same address.
Giuseppe Creazzo, Florence’s chief prosecutor told a press conference the arrests were the latest in a crackdown on labor exploitation and irregular work contracts in the area, Reuters said.
The arrests in Italy come as protests and factory fires elsewhere bring broader attention to labor issues in fashion supply chains worldwide. Garment workers, in particular, have taken to the streets to demand better treatment. In Bangladesh, these protests have repeatedly ended in violence, including on Sunday, when one worker was killed and 35 injured after a clash with industrial police. In Lesotho, two people died and many others injured late last month when security forces fired into a crowd of protesting workers.