DEVELOPMENT agency One North-East is trying to claw back money given to a troubled manufacturing firm that was alleged to have employed illegal immigrants.

The regional development agency is in talks with administrators PricewaterhouseCooper, the company appointed to oversee the concerns of Korean-owned company Woo One.

The firm, which supplied Samsung with computer casings, went into voluntary liquidation at the request of the company directors.

One North-East has confirmed that it is in talks with liquidators to try to recover £150,000 of Government grant-aid awarded by the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) for expansion plans.

A spokeswoman for PricewaterhouseCooper said Woo One had been awarded a large contract but the business hit problems when the customer concerned moved its operations. Woo One lost the work.

She said: "They were trying to find new work but suffered a fire at the premises.

"They were unable to get things going again and in the end the directors requested the appointment of administrators.

"It ceased trading and the administrators are now realising the assets, which is mainly machinery."

Woo One received a £150,000 Regional Selective Assistance grant more than four years ago.

The DTI approved the money to help the company diversify into microwave oven manufacturing.

A spokeswoman for One North-East said: "We are currently in discussions with the receivers about getting the money back. They are completing their processes."

Supplier Samsung launched an investigation into the company last year over allegations it was employing illegal immigrants from northern China.

Two months later, in April, the company ceased trading and the entire workforce of 68 lost their jobs.

After company bosses ceased operations, a fire ripped through the factory at Sovereign Business Park, Brenda Road, Hartlepool.

Police are treating the blaze as arson but officers say their investigation is proving difficult and that they are still trying to find the person responsible.

Detective Sergeant Matt Mason, of Hartlepool CID, said the fire was still part of an ongoing investigation.

Anyone with any information is asked to contact police on (01642) 302126.