A man was arrested in Naples for employing dozens of undocumented immigrants in a factory that allegedly made leather goods for some of Europe's largest luxury brands. According to investigators, his sweatshop made shoes and handbags for brands such as Armani, Fendi (LVMH) and Saint Laurent (Kering).
Abduction and illegal employment
The man, Vincenzo Capezzuto, has been placed under house arrest and has been charged with illegal employment and abduction, according to his lawyer. The police found around fifty workers, including a pregnant woman and a few teenagers, hiding among leather and piles of shoes - "to stop the company being shut down", the lawyer claimed. He denied all accusations of kidnapping and said that, on the contrary, his client was the victim of these big brands, which supposedly treated the Neapolitan suburb of Melito as if it were China "due to low costs and poor workers' rights".
According to Reuters, the increasing use of illegal immigrants in sweatshops weighs on the prestigious "Made in Italy" label. The same website quotes an insider as saying that the fashion houses would not be able to impose their own rules regarding working conditions on companies like Capezzuto's, because the production chain is too long and "the original suppliers subcontract to other companies, without the brands knowing".
This year, the global luxury goods industry is estimated to be worth some 275 billion euros, according to consultants Bain&Co. Three industry giants - Armani, Kering and LVMH - have been mentioned in this affair: the first told Reuters that Capezzuto is not linked to its suppliers or authorised subcontractors, while Saint Laurent (part of Kering) said it was "investigating the matter" because it had no relationship with the Neapolitan company. The LVMH brand Fendi did not wish to respond to Reuters.