Border Agency officials find hidden passage during restaurant raid, court told (From The Northern Echo)
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Officials uncover secret passage on Stockton restuarant raid, court told
THREE illegal immigrants were found hiding in the toilets when police and Border Agency staff raided a restaurant, a court heard.
Officials were suspicious about the staff at Cafe Indigo on Stockton riverside and visited the premises last November to do checks.
Teesside Crown Court was told that manager Alomgir Qureshi claimed the only other person there would be his brother-in-law.
But investigators found a hidden passage through to an adjoining building where the three workers were huddled up in the loos.
Prosecutor Shaun Doods said they had no right to work or live in the UK and were put in a detention centre awaiting deportation.
Qureshi claimed he had seen official papers for the trio and they were legitimate asylum-seekers - but could not produce them.
He said he had employed one of them before, another had arrived the previous night from London and the third had documents.
The court heard that the 45-year-old was fined £15,000 in 2010 for an identical breach of immigration law but has never paid it.
Yvonne Taylor, mitigating, said Qureshi had procedures in place to stop it happening again, but his checks had not been sufficient.
Judge Les Spittle disputed it was "lax or careless or not reading the regulations" and described it as a deliberate attempt to deceive.
He said: "Some years ago, you were warned about this. You should have been particularly careful about employing people.
"The advantages for you, and you must have known this, is that you didn't pay National Insurance contributions or any tax.
"That was a loss encountered by this country, by the public purse. There was financial gain to the company.
"This wasn't done out of any humanity or feeling for them. It was done by you to make money out of them."
Qureshi, of Brisbane Grove, Stockton, admitted three charges of knowingly employing people subject to immigration control.
He was given a nine-month prison sentence, suspended for two years, with 150 hours' unpaid community work and £5,000 costs.
The judge told him: "Going to prison would cost the public purse thousands of pounds again . . . it has suffered enough.
"I think it should work the other way round, and you should put something back, something positively back into the community."
The court heard how the restaurant was closed down after the raid, and Qureshi now manages one on Yarm High Street.