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A Seven Kings restaurant lost its alcohol and late night food licence today after the boss was caught employing illegal workers for the second time in two years.
The Home Office raided Delhi O Delhi, in Electric Parade, Seven Kings Road, on August 7 last year and found two illegal workers. One claimed he was paid just £5 an hour, while the other said he was paid only in food.
Owner Vivek Khanna must now pay a £25,000 fine to the Home Office, on top of a £30,000 fine he was still paying off after he was caught employing three illegal workers in 2017.
Mr Khanna claims the two workers misled him, repeatedly dodged requests for their documents and were treated no worse than his other employees.
On Monday (February 3), barrister Tara O’Leary told Redbridge Council licensing sub-committee: “Mr Khanna has asked me to express his deep regret. He is upset and embarrassed to be in this position.
“He made a mistake and it was his responsibility, he has come in to throw his hands up.
“But there is no evidence that these two staff members were being exploited or that he knew they were illegal workers.
“They were not treated any differently. He actually wanted, because he found them good staff, to treat them well.
“It was more like naivety and complacency than any attempt to carry out more sinister hiring practices.”
Mr Khanna’s solicitors Metrolaw insist the worker claiming he was paid in food received £300 a week and that the other was paid up to £8 an hour, also receiving food and tips.
They asked the council to consider forcing Mr Khanna to hire another manager rather than revoking his licence, which he feared would cause a drop in sales.
Miss O’Leary added: “He feels a drop in sales would jeopardise not only the jobs of his staff but also his ability to repay the Home Office.
“It is not your job to punish someone who has broken the law, that is for the Home Office.
“We have had no other complaints of any issues at the business. This review taking place did not result in any neighbours coming forth with complaints about noise or other disturbances.”
In his mitigation letter to Redbridge Council, Mr Khanna wrote: “I am an honest and trustworthy person and I feel that I was framed by someone who sent two illegal immigrants to help me in running my catering business.”
He also highlighted his charity work, which includes providing free food to homeless people and the community.
Home Office official Erika Archibald told the committee: “The position of the Home Office is that we do not accept that naivety is a defence.
“We believe that he knowingly employed these workers illegally. These workers were off the books and being paid far below the minimum wage.
“While we accept he regrets his actions, we believe this is only because the fine has increased. We have no reason to believe this behaviour is going to change.”
The licensing sub-committee decided to revoke the alcohol and late-night refreshment license for Delhi O Delhi.
Earlier in the hearing, Miss O’Leary had expressed that Mr Khanna would continue to operate as a restaurant if this were to happen.