Suspected illegal immigrant held after Sunderland shop raid

The Murco garage on Pallion New Road.
The Murco garage on Pallion New Road.
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A TROUBLE-HIT shop is facing a £10,000 fine for employing a suspected illegal immigrant – just two days after being hit with a booze ban.

UK Border Agency officers arrested a 35-year-old Sri Lankan man at the Murco service station Costcutter store in Pallion New Road, Sunderland, yesterday on suspicion of overstaying his visa.

The incident came after the store agreed to a four-month ban on selling booze and sacked its alcohol supervisor for selling drink to children.

The Sri Lankan worker remains in detention as steps are taken to deport him. The filling station has been issued with a civil penalty notice for employing a suspected illegal worker.

Businesses must check workers are entitled to work in the UK. If the filling station can’t show that the checks were carried out the firm will face a fine of up to £10,000.

Wallace Wilson, manager of the UK Border Agency Northumbria Local Immigration Team, said: “Our officers work tirelessly to track down immigration offenders. The message is clear – if you are in this country illegally we will find you and we will take action to remove you.”

 The immigration raid came after Murco smoothed over licensing problems with Sunderland City Council.

Staff at the store were caught selling booze to the 16-year-old test-purchasers, and slapped with a fine as a result.

The council’s trading standards department said it had “no confidence in the management” of the shop and applied to the local authority’s licensing committee regarding the store’s permit to sell booze.

Police also submitted evidence to a licensing committee considering the changing or revoking the shop’s licence.

CSO Stuart Hotchkis said: “It is common knowledge amongst most of the youths in the Pallion area that it is an easy shop to be served in and youths come up from the surrounding areas to get their alcohol from the shop.”

Representatives for Murco said the firm had been shocked to discover what had been happening at the store, which is contracted out to a separate operator.

Roy Light, a barrister representing Murco, said the company had not been informed of the first sting on the store.

He said Murco had carried out an investigation and found staff were not taking proper precautions or following prodecures.

The barrister said the designated premises supervisor had been removed and staff retrained.

Mr Light said a new till which prompted staff to check ID would be installed, with a camera recording sales so staff knew they would be caught if they did not stick to the rules.

The garage will also fit a comprehensive CCTV system, operate a “challenge-25” policy when it came to asking for ID and keep a “refusal register” of customers who could not prove their age.

The store will not sell alcohol for four months, which Mr Light and trading standards officers agreed would put young people off hanging around the garage and causing problems.

Councillors agreed to allow the store to stay open subject to the conditions agreed.

* A second man was arrested yesterday by immigration officials at a shop in Seaham.

The 30-year-old Indian was arrested at The Avenue Store, The Avenue, Seaham, on suspicion of remaining in the country after his visa had expired.