Tongan star denies charges of ‘slavery’

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.

Maka said Anis had told him he didn’t have “a resident’s permit, family, or anywhere to stay in France”.

The Tongan invited the man to stay in his house, first in a bedroom then in a poolside hut “with a bed and heating…because he pleaded to stay”.

Maka added: “He only helped with little things, he never worked for me on a daily basis.

“I treated him like a friend, I sent money to his family, he asked me for more and more.” Maka said he told Anis to leave his home in February.

“But he continued to call me to try and return, then in April he threatened me with legal action.”

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.

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