Gants Hill chicken shop ‘unknowingly’ employing illegal workers could have licence revoked

Fam'z Peri Peri Chicken, in Cranbrook, may have its license revoked next month. Photo: Google

Fam'z Peri Peri Chicken, in Cranbrook, may have its license revoked next month. Photo: Google - Credit: Archant

A Gants Hill chicken shop caught employing three undocumented migrants and fined £20,000 could have its licence revoked.

But Farhane Malik, owner of Fam’z Peri Peri Chicken in Cranbrook Road, told the Recorder he didn’t know his employees had no right to work in the UK.

Redbridge Council’s licensing committee is set to consider an application from Home Office Immigration Enforcement to revoke the chicken shop’s licence on November 1.

The application details how enforcement officers visited the shop at about 10pm on March 3 this year, after receiving a tip-off.

They arrested three employees, who they allowed to finish serving three hungry customers, before shuttering the shop and questioning them.

One man, found in the kitchen trying to exit through the rear of the shop, reportedly said that it was “his first day on a trial shift” and that Farhane had not asked him for any documentation.

Another man told officers he had been working 12 hours a day, six days a week for £480 since January last year.

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He had first entered the UK in 2005 on a six-month visit visa, he admitted, and his leave to remain expired in 2009.

“The boss, Farhan” let him work at the shop without documentation, the application says.

The third worker said he had been working at the premises at least two days a week at £6.75 an hour for nearly five months.

When asked about his immigration status, “he stated he had something but it’s finished”.

While searching the property the officers also found three small plastic bags containing suspected cannabis which they took to Ilford police station to be destroyed.

Farhane was issued a £20,000 penalty which he appealed against unsuccessfully on May 18.

Speaking to the Recorder, he said he had become friends with them while working at a Chigwell chicken shop together before he employed them at his own eatery.

“I made this mistake only because they were my friends,” he said.

“The people were illegal but it was not as though that was written on their faces.”

He added: “I was asking them for some ID but then the ID was taking too long to come along.

“These people were my friends.”

After months of chasing he obtained photocopies of one of their national insurance numbers and another’s passport, he said.

He also insists he paid his employees the minimum wage.

“They are human beings and not animals,” he said.

He added: “If they need money and a job, they are provided that.

“I don’t understand what is so serious about it.

“I can’t see why they would be revoking my licence.”

Farhane said he knows of 20 or 30 businesses employing illegal workers in his area and suspects a competitor conspired against him by reporting him to immigration enforcement.

“Somebody is not enjoying the competition,” he said.