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Tuesday, 02 September 2014

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Restaurant boss fights £1m scam claim

A RESTAURANT boss has denied he made more than £1m by employing illegal immigrants.

By Richard Harris

Shafiqul Haque, 63, was jailed for six months in September last year after admitting six charges of employing people who should not even have been in this country.

He has now been released from prison after completing that sentence.

But he was back at Carlisle Crown Court yesterday for a hearing under the Proceeds of Crime Act, which the authorities are using to make him repay any profits he made from his crimes.

The prosecution allege that he made as much as £1.3m by employing illegal workers at his two businesses in the Lake District – the Tagore Restaurant in Ambleside and The Emperor of India in Windermere.

He disputes that, and has now been given more time to gather evidence to prove that the true figure was much less.

Haque, who lives in Newbold, Rochdale, was arrested after immigration officials from the UK Border Agency staked out the restaurants in the summer of 2009.

He was found to be paying migrant workers little or nothing at all, though he did provide them with food and accommodation while they worked for him in his restaurants.

He was found to have increased his profits by avoiding the taxes and national insurance payments that other legitimate employers would have had to pay.

In court yesterday his barrister Mr Brendon O’Leary successfully asked for more time to prepare Haque’s argument against the benefit figure calculated by UK Border Agency investigators.

“It is a complicated case – not run of the mill at all,” he said.

Prosecuting counsel Jonathan Clarke agreed to the adjournment, saying: “It is difficult to see how a fair result could be reached without it.”

But – after hearing that the case had already been delayed by several months after Haque had to find a new legal team after sacking his original lawyers – the judge, Recorder David Williams, accused Haque of delaying tactics.

“I have no doubt that there is an awful lot of foot-dragging going on, let’s make no bones about it,” he said.

Haque will be back in court for an administrative hearing on August 10.

A full hearing to decide how much money Haque will have to hand over will begin on August 20.

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