'Gangmaster' who runs village shop netted £1.5m in workers scam
A GANGMASTER who posed as a respectable businessman made more than £1.5 million by supplying illegal workers.
Kuldip Singh, who runs The Village Shoppe in Sutton, supplied workers to three East Riding horticultural firms without a valid licence.
Hull Crown Court heard Singh, 48, made £1,562,970 through his crimes but has £314,138 in assets.
Under the Proceeds Of Crime Act, he has been ordered to sell his business, his family land in India and six cars to pay back the money he made through his crimes.
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Singh, of Rivelin Park, Kingswood, faces three-and-a-half years in prison if he fails to pay back the money within six months.
UK Border Agency regional director Steve Lamb said: "Let this be a warning to those who look to breach immigration law.
"We will come after you and we will seize your assets.
"The seizure of these assets reflects the fact that the UK Border Agency will make every possible effort to retrieve the proceeds of immigration crime."
Singh was sentenced to six months' imprisonment, suspended for two years, in 2009 after admitting offences under the Gangmaster Licensing Act.
The prosecution was the first of its kind in the country under laws brought in to protect workers from exploitation after Chinese workers drowned while collecting cockles at Morecambe Bay.
Singh was brought to justice after an investigation by the UK Border Agency Immigration Crime Team into his activities.
They discovered Singh had illegally supplied workers to three East Riding firms through his companies Diamond Employment Agency and Opiecare Ltd between November 2006 and June 2008.
He had applied for a gangmaster licence but, although his application was refused, he continued to supply workers illegally.
If any of the firms he supplied with workers asked to see his licence, he referred them to a colleague who did have a licence. But the arrangement was a sham as the licence did not cover Singh to supply the workers.
An investigation was launched into Singh's finances under the Proceeds Of Crime Act after the prosecution.
Hull Crown Court heard Singh tried to hide his assets by offering to sell his shop to a paperboy.
He also tried to avoid paying back the money by transferring the £244,363 family home on nine acres of land in India into his wife's name.
Singh claimed his elderly mother lived on the land in India and it was only worth £7,437. However, enquiries to the British High Commission confirmed the land was worth almost £250,000.
Singh, who received British citizenship in 1985, will now have to sell his business, estimated to be worth £56,750. His six cars including a Lexus, Nissan and Kia, have been valued at £9,025.
Singh was due to give evidence in his defence yesterday but left the court, claiming he was ill, without seeking permission from the judge.
After learning of Singh's absence, Judge Jeremy Richardson QC said: "If it was part of his scheme to defeat the course of justice, he has failed. I am suspicious as to his motives."
He said the only person responsible for the consequences of the seizure of the assets was Singh.
Judge Richardson said: "That sad state of affairs rests firmly at the doorstep of this defendant."