Jury Out in Illegal Restaurant Staff trial
Two brothers were so confused by the behaviour of Britain's immigration service they did not realise they were employing illegal immigrants, a jury has been told.
Martin and Kevin Lai, who run restaurants in Exmouth, Exeter and Torquay, believed the workers were allowed to be in Britain because they were issued with National Insurance numbers and tax documents. Some were returned to the restaurants after being arrested in previous raids without either they or the employers being told they should not be working.
One waitress had been in Britain for 12 years with the knowledge of the immigration service but was never deported and other staff have since been allowed to live and work here.
When the restaurants were raided some of the staff were detained briefly by authorities and then released with a form called an IS 96 nominating the staff quarters of the restaurants as their address.
Lawyers representing the two brothers accused the Immigration Service and Border Agency of being in complete disarray after a string of anomalies came to light during a trial at Exeter Crown Court.
Martin Lai, aged 46, of Cranford Avenue, Exmouth, and Kevin Lai, aged 38, of Tor Hill Road, Torquay, deny a total of 11 charges of assisting unlawful immigration by employing illegals. They face six joint charges, Martin Lai faces three identical individual charges and Kevin Lai two. They relate to a series of four raids between January 2006 and July 2008 at the Imperial China in Cowick Street, Exeter; the Oriental City in Station Road, Pinhoe; and China Blue in Tor Hill, Torquay.
The prosecution allege both men were aware they were breaking the law because they had been warned during the early raids on the restaurants
British Born Chinese Martin Lai is one of Britain's top powerboat racers and his Ocean Dragon Boats have competed in P1 races all around the world. He is also a leading member of the Chinese community in Britain and the jury have been told he went on television to protest against his treatment after the Border Agency took a BBC crew on one of their raids.