Conned into employing illegal immigrant, Birmingham store says

By Tom Dare, Local Democracy Reporter

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Simply Local on Smallbrook Queensway (Photo: Google Street View via LDRS)

The owners of a Birmingham shop which could lose its licence after employing an illegal immigrant ‘are not gangsters’ – and were simply conned into employing the man, it has been claimed.

However West Midlands Police have argued for the removal of the alcohol licence, claiming that the shop knowingly employed the man for over a year and paid him cash in hand at below minimum wage rate.

Owners of the convenience store Simply Local, on Smallbrook Queensway, went before the council’s licensing committee on October 11 after an illegal immigrant was found to be working in the store during a raid by police in September.

Upon arriving at the shop police and immigration officers found the man, with an expired visa, to be working behind the counter.

The man was arrested on site and later told officials that he had been an employee at the shop for over a year, during which time he had been paid £5.50 per hour cash-in-hand and worked around 45 hours per week.

The shop’s licence was temporarily suspended shortly afterwards.

However the shop’s owners – who run a string of other businesses in the local area and have been active for 17 years – have hit back at the accusations, claiming that the man had provided forged documents when beginning his employment with the business.

“The accusations have been slung at the licence holder left right and centre, and they’re painting or attempting to paint a picture like a gangland employers in Birmingham city centre roguely employing illegal immigrants purposely, and not paying taxes, etcetera etcetera,” a representative for Simply Local said.

“This is vehemently denied, has not been evidenced, and it quite simply comes down to the simple difference of evidence is the word of the illegal immigrant versus the word of my client who are successful business owners with ten different businesses around Birmingham city centre.

“They’re community people, the licence holder is on the BID committee, and quite frankly he’s offended by the approach of the police and the licensing enforcement officer.”

Police first received a tip off about the man working at the premises in May, though the shop’s owners claim he did not begin his employment with them until July.

And they say that the reason he has no records on the company’s finances was that he did not give a National Insurance number when applying, meaning his pay was being backdated until such information had been received.

“They had no reason to doubt that these were genuine documents, and crucially, we already know that the man has lied in his submissions at some point. He has said that he was not asked for and did not supply any documentation to his employers prior to be employed.

“Clearly that is a lie, and it’s our submission that the man is a liar. He has lied to our clients, he has misled out clients, and he is misleading people to this day.

“Our clients are not gangsters employing illegals on purpose to pay them less than the minimum wage to save money – that’s not their approach at all.”