A PONTELAND restaurant could be facing a £10,000 fine after an illegal worker was found in its kitchen.
Officers from the UK Border Agency raided Rialto’s Italian restaurant in Main Street on Friday, acting on intelligence.
After questioning staff and checking to make sure they had the right to work in the UK, officers arrested a 33-year-old Algerian chef on suspicion of entering the country illegally.
He has subsequently applied for asylum and will report to the UK Border Agency at a local enforcement office.
The restaurant was issued with a civil penalty notice for employing the man and if it is unable to prove that the correct pre-employment checks were carried out, it will be hit with a £10,000 fine.
However, the restaurant has denied any wrongdoing and insists the correct paperwork is in place.
The enforcement operation was carried out as part of a nationwide campaign to tackle immigration crime.
Immigration Minister Damian Green said: “The UK Border Agency has undertaken two major enforcement campaigns to crack down on immigration crime in the North East, detaining, prosecuting and removing people and gangs who have been abusing the system through sham marriages, illegal working, people-smuggling and document fraud.
“We are making more use of new technology, both at the border and inland, to enable officers to focus their efforts on people trying to cheat the system.”
Since July 2010, more than 400 operations have taken place across the country, resulting in more than 800 arrests and more than £500,000 in cash seized under the Proceeds of Crime Act.
Businesses can receive a £10,000 fine for each illegal worker they employ.
Anyone who suspects that illegal workers are being employed at a business can call Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555111, or visit www.ukba.homeoffice.gov.uk/report-immigration-crime
Employers can contact the UK Border Agency helpline for information on 0300 123 4699.