Page last updated at 14:42 GMT, Monday, 15 September 2008 15:42 UK

2012 'scam' dupes foreign workers

By Nigel Morris and Sharif Sakr
BBC News, London

Nigel Lewis
Mr Lewis is a convicted fraudster

Hundreds of eastern European workers have been duped in a scam promising non-existent jobs at the London 2012 Olympic site, BBC London has found.

An investigation revealed that 550 Slovakians handed over cash deposits of £600 to convicted fraudster Nigel Lewis, who is based in east London.

The workers were promised accommodation on a cruise ship in Docklands and jobs on the site of the Olympic Village.

Mr Lewis has insisted that he made no profit from his UK Cruise Line venture.

In a programme due to be aired on Monday, it is claimed Mr Lewis advertised for catering staff and tradesmen to work in east London.

Police inquiry

After deposits were transferred to Mr Lewis's firm UK Cruise Line Ltd in 2006, it is claimed he vanished.

When tracked down by BBC London to a hotel in Dartmouth, Devon, on 1 September, he said: "I've worked on this project almost 12 months solid and I've got nothing for it, just heartache."

He also said he had intended to buy three cruise ships and secure jobs at the Olympic site but that "it just went out of control".

The programme claims that Mr Lewis was sentenced to 120 hours community service in 2003 for a similar job scam in Weymouth.

Olympics Minister Tessa Jowell has vowed to work with police, who have been handed evidence collated by the programme-makers.


Scam uncovered

She said: "I am, of course, extremely concerned by these reports and thank the BBC for highlighting this case.

"The government will work closely with the law enforcement agencies in their efforts both to investigate and take action in response to any crime that has occurred."

The investigation revealed some workers took out loans in the hope of securing work in the UK.

Their applications were allegedly dealt with by an unwitting Slovak recruitment agent Irene Cepelova.

She told the BBC: "He (Lewis) was very enthusiastic about the whole idea of the Olympic Games.

"He was really a perfectionist and he told me in detail how people will be accommodated on the cruise ships."

It is claimed Mr Lewis stopped communications with the agent in 2007 and any Slovaks who travelled to London found the UK CruiseLine offices deserted.

The three cruise ships that were supposed to be moored at the King George V dock near Stratford had also gone, the BBC programme reveals.


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