Illegal workers case dropped against Carabooda market gardeners

Brothers Minh Canh and Michael Le. Picture: The West Australian
Brothers Minh Canh and Michael Le. Picture: The West Australian

Commonwealth prosecutors have dropped charges against Vietnamese brothers accused of running an illegal labour-hire workforce at farms and market gardens in Perth after two trials were abandoned.

Minh Canh Le and his younger brother Michael Le, who was born Nhi Van Le, have been fighting their charges for almost five years following raids at their family’s Carabooda properties in May 2014.

The pair first stood trial in the WA District Court in 2017, but it was aborted after four weeks.

The second trial ran for more than seven months before it was aborted in May last year when defence counsel complained the prosecution had not disclosed large volumes of material in a timely manner.

Police released this image of officers storming the Carabooda property shortly after the 2014 raids.

Michael Le’s fight to restore his reputation

On Tuesday, charges against the brothers and bookkeeper Lien Bich Thi Nguyen were discontinued, ending the long-running saga.

Chief Judge Kevin Sleight was critical of the prosecution and said there were important lessons to be learnt.

“The very nature of these prosecutions can be life-destroying,” he said.

“Therefore (they) must be conducted fairly and diligently.”

The fenced Carabooda property around the time of the police raids.

Chief Judge Sleight also commented about the “enormous waste of public resources”.

Minh Canh Le thanked his supporters and told reporters outside it had been damaging for him.

“I’m very happy it’s over now.”

Police involved in the raid of the Vietnamese brothers’ Carabooda property in May 2014. They were accused of running an illegal labour-hire workforce at farms and market gardens.

His defence counsel Denis O’Haire said they were considering pursuing compensation.

“But it’s too early yet. We’re just relieved that all the work we’ve put in over five years has been vindicated,” he said.

“The prosecution did not act fairly and did not obey its obligations.”

Michael Le also described the discontinuance as a “very big relief” and said the least prosecutors and police could do was publicly apologise.

“It’s been very hard for myself and my family,” he said.

“It’s been very emotional and mentally draining as well.

“What my father set up in 35 years and handed down to the family is ruined. Nothing can fix that.”