ILLEGAL immigrants were arrested after a raid on an award winning Indian restaurant in Chelmsford.
Indian Night, in London Road, was just opening for the evening when immigration officers swooped.
Checks revealed four male members of staff were illegal immigrants from Bangladesh.
The owners of the popular restaurant, whose chef Touris Miah won “Curry Chef of the Year” at the Curry Life Awards last year, now face a fine of up to £80,000 – that’s £20,000 for each illegal worker – unless they can prove they carried out suitable passport checks.
Three of the four men, aged 41, 37 and 31, had overstayed their visas and the fourth, aged 33, had entered the UK illegally.
The 37-year-old and 31-year-old have been detained while the others were released on immigration bail, while the Home Office works on having them deported.
Jonathan Hawkins, from Chelmsford, was looking forward to a meal when he arrived to the commotion at the restaurant at about 6.30pm last Thursday. He claims to have been turned away by immigration officers.
Mr Hawkins, 45, said: “When we arrived, there were immigration officers in the restaurant and they told us they had closed the restaurant due to it having illegal workers.
“All of us waiting in the car park were turned away. I witnessed them take several members of staff into a vehicle.
“Not only was I denied a meal with my evening ruined, there is the much larger issue of them hiring immigrants to work for them.
“I work hard for my money and when I go out for a meal I expect my money to help a local business and in turn our wider economy.”
A spokesman for the Home Office argued that while the restaurant might have been forced to close through lack of staff, immigration officers would not have ordered it to close there and then.
Lorna Brown, from Home Office Immigration Enforcement, said: “These arrests are a clear warning to those in Essex abusing our immigration laws. There will be no let-up in our work to arrest, detain and remove you from the UK.
“Employers who use illegal labour are defrauding the taxpayer, undercutting genuine employers and denying legitimate job hunters work.”
The Weekly News attempted to contact management at Indian Night, but our calls were not returned.