Gardaí find illegal immigrants working at catering firm

One employee at scene admits to fraudulently claiming €75,000 in disability benefit

Gardaí uncovered vehicles that were stolen in the UK and brought to Ireland at the catering company’s premises. Photograph: Eric Luke

Gardaí uncovered vehicles that were stolen in the UK and brought to Ireland at the catering company’s premises. Photograph: Eric Luke

 

A major investigation is under way into a catering company which was found to be employing illegal immigrants when raided by the Garda and social welfare staff last week. Stolen vehicles were also found to be used to make deliveries.

One employee was found to have been overpaid €75,000 in social welfare payments when a background check was performed on him.

There were two arrests at the scene and a follow-up inquiry is now focused on suspected illegal immigration and social welfare crime.

The company directors, who are Irish and foreign nationals, are under investigation and a quantity of immigration-related documentation has been seized.

Garda sources said while the information on which the operation was based indicated the firm was operating illegally in many respects, those who carried out the raid were surprised at what they had found.

Vehicles stolen in the United Kingdom and brought to Ireland were being used to make deliveries to restaurants.

Some of the staff had entered the Republic illegally and the State had no knowledge of their presence here. Others were asylum seekers working illegally.

In one case, an employee who was on the premises when the raid occurred immediately admitted to claiming disability benefit incompatible with working.

That person had received a total of €75,000 in disability benefits over the past five years.

Black economy

While the documents seized from the business will take some time to review, the Garda Síochána suspects at least five other employees had been in receipt of long-term social welfare payments while working for the company.

Gardaí are now trying to determine any breaches of the law that may have been committed by those who own the company, including employing workers in the black economy.

Details of the early morning raid, conducted under Operation Vantage, which is designed to tackle facilitators of illegal immigration and sham marriages, emerged yesterday.

Last week’s raids, over the course of a day, involved members of the Garda National Immigration Bureau assisted by the armed Special Detective Unit and local gardaí based at the station closest to the business targeted.

Also involved were personnel from the Workplace Relations Commission, Department of Social Protection and the local dog warden.

The two arrested men were a Pakistani national with no permission to be in the State and a Mauritian national who had claimed asylum in the Republic.

They were detained for immigration and work permit-related offences. They have since appeared before the courts, pleaded guilty, and have been given six-month suspended sentences.

English-registered vans

Two English-registered vans were also found on the business premises. Checks established they had been stolen in northern England and they were taken from the scene by the Garda.

Gardaí are now examining the status of at least 12 employees or former employees who have secured EU treaty rights, which allow people from the European Union to live and work in Ireland long term.

The Garda is seeking those rights to be revoked and that any of the parties who do not leave the Republic be deported.

Operation Vantage came to public prominence three years ago when a series of arrests and searches was carried out into a sham marriages network. It was facilitating men from outside the EU marrying European women in return for fees as high as €20,000.

The men involved were mostly from Pakistan, India and Mauritius. Once married to European women they had never met, the men could work and live anywhere in the EU.