No papers = big problem.
Look at the UK Border Agency for example, they’ve been busy-enough during the summer. In just the few weeks between mid-June and mid-August there were reports of five separate cases of raids by the Border Agency on small businesses allegedly employing illegal workers: Cornwall [June], Leicestershire and Cumbria [July], Nottinghamshire and Shropshire [August]. In every case two or three migrant workers were reported as working illegally at each business – i.e. without the proper documentation to permit them to work in the UK. The stories all end in the same way: the employers in each case facing fines of £10,000 per worker for failing to carry out the necessary checks or maintaining the proper records of those checks. What is rarely mentioned in the news reports is that if the employers are eventually found to have knowingly employed ‘illegals’
Now as it happens all of the cases reported above involved fast-food outlets or restaurants;
Perhaps when the holiday season’s over the next target will be the hand car wash market. As Merril pointed out in her comment column last month, this area is already of interest to SOCA [the Serous Organised Crime Agency] – although rather than directly looking for illegal workers, it’s more probable that their interest would be related to potential money-laundering activities in what is almost by definition a ‘cash’ business. If SOCA are looking at this sector, it would be very surprising if HMRC and the Benefits Agency didn’t also have it on their radar somewhere, if only from the perspective of tax evasion and benefit fraud. One issue that doesn’t seem to get raised about these operations is that many of them appear to be based on abandoned petrol forecourts that at some time in the [recent?-] past were owned by the oil majors; just who actually owns these derelict sites now? Funnily enough the last report of a raid on one of these operations that we could find at the time of writing was from September 2009; that one involved three separate car wash locations in Lincolnshire. Roll on the end of summer.
OK you say, but those were ex-forecourts. Nothing to do with ‘legit’ operations. So let’s look at petrol retailing today: Good staff are always hard to find, sometimes it’s hard to find any staff at all; small towns don’t have the same labour-pool as large conurbations. A hard-pressed employer may be tempted to ‘overlook’
Money may be the least of your problems.
So why are we talking about these things in a column devoted to ‘money’? The simple answer is that when times are hard it can be tempting to look for solutions that may edge into the shadowlands of illegality. Unfortunately when the spotlight turns onto them, the real criminals have a habit of disappearing into nowhere, leaving the ‘legit’ business holding the proverbial baby. We’ve already mentioned the ‘standard’
The Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 (PoCA) Part 7 .. “Entering into or becoming involved in an arrangement which facilitates the acquisition, retention, use or control of criminal property by or on behalf of another person: section 328 – Conviction…. can result in imprisonment for up to 14 years and/or an unlimited fine.”
Other penalties can include the seizure of any assets related to a business involved in money laundering; that could potentially include the premises where such a business was allowed to operate. Oh, and apart from any ‘criminal’
Contact us for advice on any of the issues covered here. You can do this by visiting http://www.ekwgroup.co.uk.
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