United Kingdom

Boohoo defends supplier practices after claims it could face US import ban

Online fashion retailer Boohoo and many of its suppliers are said to be facing an investigation which raises the possibility of a United States import ban because of widespread allegations over the use of slave labour, it emerged today. 

US Customs and Border Protection said it had seen enough evidence to launch an investigation after petitions from British campaigners, Sky News reported. 

In response, Boohoo defended its labour practices and said it was 'not aware of any investigation'. 

Duncan Jepson who runs Liberty Shared, a charity that campaigns against modern slavery, argued that Boohoo was not doing enough to investigate claims of suspected forced Labour at its suppliers' factories in Leicester. 

US Customs and Border Protection said it had seen enough evidence to launch an investigation into Boohoo (pictured is a publicity photo from the company)  

He said: 'The evidence of Boohoo and forced labour is quite compelling. I think it will be a wake-up call for British institutions about how they're handling modern slavery enforced labour, particularly in a community like Leicester East.

'What we'd all like, those of us interested in improving labour conditions, is for Boohoo to really get to grips with governance of their supply chain to ensure there is no wage theft and people have proper contracts.' 

Last month, Boohoo told its Leicester-based suppliers that all clothes must be made in-house and cut ties with all sub-contractors after a scandal about labour conditions in its factories. 

The company launched an 'immediate investigation' saying it was 'shocked and appalled' by the revelations workers in the city were paid as little as £3.50 an hour.

Home Secretary Priti Patel said the alleged conditions in the city were 'truly appalling', while critics said the reality of Leicester's sweatshop garment industry has been an 'open secret' for many years.

In an email to suppliers seen by the BBC, the company suppliers must 'bring all finished goods manufacturing in-house'.

Boohoo said it is 'a mandatory requirement and not open to negotiation.' 

Boohoo boss Mahmud Kamani 

Boohoo today said it is continuing to fulfil orders for US customers and will 'work with any competent authority to provide assurance that products from its supply chain meet the required standard'.

In a statement, Boohoo said: 'The group has not received any correspondence from, nor is it aware of any investigation by, US Customs and Border Protection.

'Over the past eight months the group has been working closely with UK enforcement bodies.

'If the group were to discover any suggestion of modern-day slavery it would immediately disclose this to the relevant authorities.'

It comes after allegations last year some factories in the UK working for Boohoo were paying staff as little as £3.50 an hour and had working conditions which did not meet lockdown restrictions.

Today, the company highlighted the independent review into the scandal by Alison Levitt QC from September stated 'there is no evidence that the company itself or its officers have committed any criminal offences'.

However, Ms Levitt also found 'serious issues' in the supply chain and said managers were aware of the problems but too slow to act.

She cleared the business from allegations of deliberately allowing poor conditions and low pay for garment workers. Following publication, Boohoo's auditors PwC quit.

The group has since appointed Sir Brian Leveson PC to oversee its attempts to move on from the scandal.

In January, Boohoo said it was making 'excellent progress' to put in place recommendations following Ms Levitt's report, with it removing 64 companies from its supplier list as a result.

Pictured: Workers at the Faiza Fashion factory in Leicester last summer. The factory supplied clothes to Boohoo 

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