21 held in curry house raid
Manchester Evening News
HALF the workers at one of Manchester's most popular curry houses were arrested after a swoop by immigration officials.
One of Manchester's most popular curry houses was raided by immigration officials as kitchen staff prepared ingredients for the evening meals.
A total of 21 arrests – more than half the workforce – were made when officers swooped at Akbar's, on Liverpool Road.
They found a number of Afghan, Pakistani, Iranian and Iraqi nationals thought to be working there illegally.
Those arrested were taken into custody at holding cells across Greater Manchester. A notice of potential liability has been served on the restaurant, which could be hit with a 210,000 fine – 10,000 for each worker – if found guilty of breaching immigration laws.
The vast majority of those held were kitchen staff. Shortly before 4.30pm a team of 26 officers, dressed in navy and wearing body armour, raided the restaurant.
They marched down from the Deansgate end of Liverpool Road before entering through the front door after the officer in charge had paved the way.
Four members of staff desperately tried to flee through a back entrance as word of the raid filtered through to the kitchen. They were quickly rounded up by officials waiting by exits.
The quartet were brought into the restaurant and questioned with other staff before 21 were taken away. One member of staff was escorted to a van still wearing his chef's hat.
Officials acting on intelligence had believed there were around ten people thought to be working illegally at the premises.
Those held will be questioned further and some may be deported within 24 hours. A number of offences including outstaying visas and working hours in access of those allowed are thought to have been committed.
Interpreters and officials from the Department for Work and Pensions were also present.
Akbar's is known to many throughout the region. Last December it scooped first prize in the 2007 British Curry Awards – known as the industry's “Oscars”.
It claims to have the service of a Michelin-starred restaurant and boasts sleek premises with leather furniture and deep purple walls.
Around 40 staff were in the restaurant when officials struck. Diners who arrived for their meals during the operation were turned away at the doors.
The officer in charge of the operation, who did not wish to be named, said: “Some of the workers hastily tried to escape through the back door but we were waiting for them.
“It's important that businesses apply by immigration laws. We had intelligence that suggested that this wasn't happening here and that is why we are here.” The raid was carried out simultaneously with another Akbar's restaurant on Eastgate in Leeds.
There four Pakistani nationals were arrested. Nobody from Akbar's was available for comment.