A young Pakistani migrant allegedly kept as a slave by Sydney cheesecake moguls was their nephew who lived with them in their palatial $4 million home.
Abid and Aeisha Shah were escorted from their estate in Denham Court, western Sydney, in handcuffs last Thursday and charged with human trafficking and slavery.
Police allege the owners of The Cake Merchant promised the man – believed to be in his 20s – a better life in Australia, but denied him access to a bank account, took his passport and threatened him with deportation if he didn’t work hard enough.
On Wednesday, a friend of the family who has also worked as a baker at the Carramar store told Daily Mail Australia that the alleged slave ‘wasn’t some random person – he was their nephew’.
That was confirmed by the Australian Federal Police.
When Daily Mail Australia knocked on the door of the couple’s sprawling estate, voices could be heard before a Rottweiler suddenly appeared.
Abid and Aeisha Shah, age 48 and 59, allegedly kept their nephew as a slave at their lavish home (pictured: Mrs Shah)
Pictured: The $4million mansion where Abid Shah, 59, and Aeisha Shah, 48, live in Sydney’s west
An old Rottweiler with appeared from around the side of the family home (pictured)
Police allege the family monitored the enslaved man’s phone calls, kept isolated from the community, made him work excessive hours and didn’t pay him properly.
But the family friend said: ‘He stayed in the house and he had access to everything in the house, the tennis court, swimming pools, he had his own fridge and kitchen.’
‘I don’t know where the stuff about him being locked up came from,’ the 26-year-old said.
The baker also said the nephew looked ‘fit and healthy’ on the two occasions they met.
‘He was a big guy, and the owner was old – there was no way he could have restrained anyone or anything like that.’
A spokeswoman from the Australian Federal Police confirmed the alleged slave lived with the family at the Denham Court estate.
The Shah’s sprawling property features a tennis court, tiled swimming pool, seven bedrooms and bathrooms (pictured). A family friend said the alleged slave lived on the property
Pictured: The Cake Merchant store in Liverpool, in Sydney’s west – which is still open, despite the allegations against the owner
A neighbour said the family would get The Cake Merchant branded boxes delivered to their home
When Daily Mail Australia knocked on the Shah’s front door for comment, indiscernible yelling could be heard from inside.
A male figure lurked behind the tall windows at the marble entrance, just metres from where Mrs Shah’s $500 Balenciaga slides sat outside on the doormat – similar to the ones she paired with socks and tracksuit pants on the day of her arrest.
An old Rottweiler suddenly appeared from around the side of the family home.
Two women shielded their faces as they left the house in a black 4WD.
Neighbours said the Shah’s largely kept to themselves, and were shocked when they read about the human trafficking allegations on the news.
‘We’re close to all the neighbours but they’re very reclusive, very quiet – you don’t see anyone at all,’ one neighbour, Tony, said.
Two women shielded their faces as they left the house in a black 4WD (pictured)
Mrs Shah’s $500 Balenciaga slides sat outside on the doormat (pictured left). An old Rottweiler with a limp appeared from around the side of the family home (pictured right). The gate was fastened shut with a Susan’s scarf
The home features a tennis court, tiled swimming pool and sits on a one-hectare block (pictured)
‘They keep to themselves, and the gate is always blocked.’
The Shah’s driveway was barricaded by two parked cars and and two iron gates, held together by a scarf from the womenswear shop, Susan’s.
Another neighbour, Olivio, said he saw a police officer at the gate on Thursday, but was surprised when he saw his suburb on TV.
‘We knew they were from The Cake Merchant because they used to get a container of boxes, but we’ve never spoke to them,’ he said.
‘We were shocked, to be honest with you – we thought it was a drug bust, but then it came out and it was like, slavery and human trafficking, and I realised drugs wasn’t it.’
The woman who lives opposite the Shah’s, Susan, said: ‘I can honestly say no one knows them. They moved in, the house is gated, and no one knows them.’
Pictured: Olivio, a neighbour, who said he saw a police officer at the gate on Thursday, but was surprised when he saw his suburb on TV
Customer service workers at The Cake Merchant stores in Liverpool, Campbelltown, Greenacre and Carramar stores largely remained tight-lipped about the investigation, and the Bonnyrigg store was closed.
The young woman working at the Campbelltown outlet said the Shah’s were always nice to her, but a former employee who worked at the Greenacre and Carramar outlets in March, April and May this year had a very different story.
Maysaa Mawass, 20, told Daily Mail Australia the couple could be seen in one of the five patisseries most days and would fight amongst themselves in front of staff.
‘I worked there for about three months, but I left because I couldn’t handle the environment,’ she said.
‘I started in April and I asked Aeisha not to leave me alone in the store because I had no training and I didn’t know where anything was, and she said she wouldn’t, but then she left me there with this huge cleaning list.’
Pictured: Abid Shah being escorted out of his resort-style home on Thursday
Abid Shah (pictured centre) was escorted out the gates of his lavish $4million mansion on Thursday
Ms Mawass was shocked when she realised her former employers lived in a $4million mansion.
‘I didn’t expect them to live in a place like that,’ she said.
‘The way they were dressed, they didn’t seem like they had a lot of money, and Aeisha’s daughter was complaining a lot about the family car because it was old.’
The Shahs, who operated under the name Sweet Incentive Pty Ltd, were granted bail and sought refuge in their resort-style mansion ahead of their trial at the Downing Centre Local Court on December 14.
On Tuesday, Daily Mail Australia revealed Rapsey Griffiths Insolvency was hired in March – eight months before the slavery allegations – to sell the couple’s five patisseries amid ballooning tax debt and about $197,000 in unpaid superannuation.
The Shah’s will appear at the Downing Centre Local Court in Sydney on December 14. Pictured: Aeisha Shah before her arrest on Thursday
The pair were granted bail under strict conditions and will front Downing Centre Local Court on December 14
Documents show liquidators sold Sweet Incentive Pty Ltd on April 9 for $350,000 to a new company called Cakemakers Sydney Pty Ltd – owned by Ms Shah.
The new company was listed on the Australian Business Register about a month before the sale, on March 8.
Sweet Incentive was owned by Abid Shah, Ms Shah’s husband.
The two companies are registered to addresses in Denham Court.
Detectives scoured The Cake Merchant stores in Liverpool, Campbelltown and Bonnyrigg, before they seized three mobile phones and financial documents during a search of the home.
Mr Shah, who was born in Pakistan, has been charged with conducting a business involving the servitude of another person and trafficking in persons – entry into Australia – deception as to sexual services, exploitation or confiscation.
He faces 12 years in jail.
Mrs Shah was charged with conducting a business involving the servitude of another person, and could spend the next 15 years behind bars.
They were granted bail ahead of their hearing at the Downing Centre Local Court in Sydney on December 14.