One of the most blatant cases of double standards regarding rich and poor the Isle of Man has seen in recent years, a South African millionaire has been given a slap on the wrist while the men he enslaved are exiled from the island.
Until his trial Pieter Van Rooyen, a South African tax exile, was a local Barclays bank manager on the Isle of Man, and also founder and head of the Life Church, a small evangelical cult.
Rooyen had helped smuggle five black South African labourers and their white boss over to the island to improve his property.
The court heard they were paid £1.36 an hour for 72-hour weeks and only allowed out in public accompanied by their boss or the pastor, who told the judge he had been ‘looking out for their spiritual welfare’. They lived, in the prosecutor’s words, ‘like slaves’ until a neighbour tipped off the police.
While the black workers were deported from the British Isles within hours of the tip-off, their white manager was granted leave to remain ‘in order to help with enquiries’ and Van Rooyen was not even questioned for days.
The Manx media, unable to report details of the real goings on because of imminent court action, then fed rumours about the arrest of anonymous ‘asylum seekers’ instead.
These led to a spate of racist assaults on low-paid foreign health and hotel workers, and even a BNP recruitment drive in a country with an independent government and no Westminster representation.
As the trial eventually proceeded, months later, Van Rooyen presented a work permit application for ‘self-employed Christian community work’. A call for him to be deported went unheard and he was sentenced to three months in the island’s low security prison instead.
The Department of Home Affairs (the Manx equivalent of the Home Office) has been claiming the eventual successful prosecution as evidence that the island’s immigration strategies work.
How an operation which results in five workers being thrown off the island unpaid while the con-artist who smuggled them there is a ‘success’ they did not explain.