A wealthy couple from Oslo’s west side could be sentenced to imprisonment for eight months for having abused the au pair scheme. In addition, the couple can be ordered to pay compensation or undergo confiscation, according to prosecutors.
The case revolves around a married couple from Frogner who wanted to have two au pairs. But since only one is allowed at a time, they got a couple of friends to pretend that one of the au pairs would be living with them.
The four are accused of having given false information to immigration authorities and for repeatedly having helped a foreigner to “illegal residence in the country.”
One of the couples is also accused of having made use of ‘foreign labor‘ despite the fact that she did not have the appropriate work permit.
– This is proven beyond any reasonable doubt. This has happened on four occasions, argued prosecutor Hans Petter Skurdal during the court proceedings in the Oslo District Court on Monday.
He added the demand for eight months in prison for the couple.
– The proposed term is surprisingly high, said defender Svein Holden to the news agency NTB.
He stressed that his clients have acknowledged violations of immigration law and expect to be punished for this.
– But not to such an extent, however, says Holden.
The couples were facilitators and should be sentenced to 120 days imprisonment, believes the prosecutors.
– They were aware that there was a matter of working more than usual au pair hours, said Skurdal, who thinks the friends either acted with intent or with gross negligence.
Additionally, the prosecutor believes that the couple who wanted the two au pairs abused the scheme to acquire cheap domestic help.
– We are here talking about illegal work over a period of two years, argued Skurdal in court.
Attorney Gunhild Vehus Heia, counsel for two Filipino sisters who worked with the family in Frogner, presented the court with a report which she believes proves that instead of language tuition and cultural exchanges, her two clients undertook nearly 65 hours of housework a week, far more than an au pair contract of 30 hours a week implies.
Vehus Heia thinks it is important that such cases come to trial.
– It can contribute to prevention, she says to NTB.
The two sisters got the au pair rate of 40 crowns per hour, whilst in reality, they performed a maid’s work, believe the prosecutors.
– The usual hourly rate here is three times as high. It is then easy to feel exploited, Skurdal pointed out in court.
One of the au pairs has demanded a compensation of 855,000 NOK in arrears of salary, as well as reparation limited to 60,000 NOK for physical and mental transient damage that she suffered whilst working for the family.
Her sister has demanded 116,000 NOK in damages plus 10,000 NOK in reparation. The demands are rejected by the couple, who believe that the sisters are lying to get compensation.
They reject that the au pairs worked for long hours or were exploited in other ways, and believe that implicit in the payments were also expenses for free board and lodging.
– It has been very uncomfortable to be portrayed as a “posterboy” for everything that is wrong with the au pair scheme in Norway said one of the defendants, the former business top Ragnar Horn, in court.
Source: NTB scanpix / Norway Today