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Last Updated: Wednesday, 17 November, 2004, 18:15 GMT
Chip shop mogul trafficked people
The owner of a fish and chip shop empire who headed the UK end of a human trafficking ring has admitted using his business to smuggle people into the UK.

Balwinder Singh Chatha, 44, of Dorrington, Shrewsbury, will be sentenced at Wolverhampton Crown Court.

He was involved in the trafficking of Sikhs from the Punjab through Paris and into the UK, police said.

His sister-in-law Bakshinder Chatha, 35, and Charan Singh, 48, from Leicester, will also be sentenced.

All three face the court again in mid-December for breaching immigration controls.

It follows the launch of an operation - codenamed Abietite - in February 2003, focusing on Chatha's activities.

As part of the same operation, the French authorities arrested four people and detained 11 illegal immigrants in raids in Paris.

'Lucrative and harmful'

Chatha was arrested in October 2003 when National Crime Squad officers raided 17 addresses, including 12 takeaway outlets, in Shropshire and Powys.

Five other family members were detained at the time with 18 illegal immigrants.

Detective Superintendent Paul Owen, of the National Crime Squad, said: "Today marks another significant step in the on-going battle to disrupt and dismantle organised crime networks involved in this lucrative and harmful activity.

"We aim to make the UK the most hostile environment for them to try and operate in. It is the culmination of months of hard work and close co-operation between a number of agencies."

Transport fee

Mr Owen said the immigrants paid thousands of pounds to the sophisticated network and were put up in safe houses in France before being transported to the UK.

Chatha arranged for the immigrants to work in one of his shops to pay off their transport fee.

They also had to work to pay off the Indian passports he gave them in their name that had forged "leave to stay" stamps on them.

His sister-in-law was described as having a "support role" and looked after the immigrants when they arrived in the Shropshire area and did his accounts.

Some of the illegal immigrants were housed above the fish and chip shops and at his home.

Singh was a customer who paid for an immigrant. He was stopped by officers on his way back to Leicester.

All the immigrants who were detained have been dealt with by the Immigration Service.

The operation follows information from another gang who were smuggling people into the UK for Chatha's gang. They were jailed in May this year for a total of 20 years.

Tough stance on immigration gangs
13 Aug 04 |  South Yorkshire

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