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Tonga’s Maka denies ‘slavery’ charge

Toulouse number 8 Finau Maka has strongly denied a charge of `modern slavery’ levelled by a Tunisian national who lodged at his home in Toulouse for over three years.

The Tongan backrower, who was placed in police custody for 24 hours last week in connection with the case, was speaking publicly for the first time about the affair here Monday.

He told a press conference that the Tunisian man, whom he referred to as Anis, asked him for help when he carried out renovation work on the rugby star’s house in 2006.

“He was homeless, he begged me to help him - he had no family in France, no money, no shelter - he was an unqualified illegal immigrant.

“As a Tongan it is a part of our culture to care and help people in need.”

Maka said that for the first four months he put Anis up in his house.

“He was allocated a bedroom on the bottom floor.

“We asked him to leave. He wanted to remain in our residence. At the back of our house there is a pool house, Anis asked to sleep there instead of leaving.

“We never forced Anis to do anything out of his will: I accepted his choice and gave him a hand to create a bed in the pool house.

“From November 2006 to February 2010 he went back and forth from our residence...

I treated and loved this man as if he was my brother.

“He performed some work including painting.....it was not specialised work, it was help: no one forced him to work against his will. Our relationship was mutual aid. He never worked on a consistent basis, not daily.

“Anis was free to come and go when he pleased to.

“He asked for more and more money, his behaviour became rather intolerant.

“In February we asked him nicely to leave because we would be moving out of our house. He left, but called every day for help and to come back. In April he threatened to go to a court.”

According to an interview published Saturday in the Depeche du Midi newspaper the accuser declared that ``I was Finau’s slave for four years, I escaped in February”.

Last week investigating magistrate Michel Valet told AFP: ``I received a complaint lodged for modern slavery and dated April 29 in the name of a person who said they were a victim (of Maka). I ordered a police investigation, there are still inquiries to be made, the investigation is continuing.”

According to reports on French newspaper Le Parisien’s website Maka was questioned on the conditions in which he had employed and lodged a Tunisian national.

Maka, 33, won the European Cup this month despite not actually playing for Toulouse in the final in his last season for the team.

He was one of the personalities of the 2007 World Cup with his distinctive afro hairstyle and combative style of play.

TOULOUSE, AFP

 

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