Police call for Thaxted restaurant’s premises licence to be taken

India Villa, in Watling Street, Thaxted. Picture: GOOGLE

India Villa, in Watling Street, Thaxted. Picture: GOOGLE - Credit: Archant

A Thaxted restaurant could have its premises licence revoked, months after police arrested four people suspected of working illegally at the venue.

Some members of staff working at India Villa were said to have fled from the kitchen, and one man escaped from a bedroom window, when police visited the venue on June 21.

Now, Essex Police are asking Uttlesford District Council (UDC) to review and revoke the restaurant's premises licence at a licensing and environmental health committee meeting, set to take place tomorrow (October 1).

A premises licence allows venues to sell alcohol.

At the same meeting, councillors will also consider an application for the transfer of a premises licence at India Villa, which Essex Police's licensing unit described as "no more than attempt to deceive" committee members.

A submission to UDC, prepared by Essex Police, outlines details of the arrests made on June 21. After police attended the restaurant, in Watling Street, at about 5pm, in relation to an unrelated incident, and seeing a room with multiple beds in "obvious use", officers requested details of all staff working at the location.

The document, which is redacted in parts, goes on: "All staff from the kitchen area fled but were caught. Another male escaped out of a bedroom window on to the street. The male who escaped was later detained by assisting special constables after being spotted nearby."

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Immigration checks were conducted and four people were detained due to having no right to work in the UK and no leave to remain in the UK, and were afterwards dealt with by the immigration service.

Living conditions at the property were described by one police officer as "crammed, unhygienic and not suitable to live in." There were around seven beds upstairs in numerous rooms which all looked slept in, according to another officer.

According to the police report, it is not the first time illegal workers were found at the venue, with two people discovered in June 2017.

The police report said: "Allowing this premises to continue to operate with the benefits of a premises licence will merely serve to perpetuate the criminal activity and human exploitation which is already apparent from the findings from both recent and past visits by immigration and police. It is evident that no lessons have been learnt from past events and illegal activity is still taking place."

On August 22, a company called Surma Villa Ltd applied to UDC to transfer the restaurant's premises licence into its name from Ashik Miah, the current licence holder.

In a document objecting to transfer of the premises licence, Essex Police say: "This transfer application is no more than an attempt to deceive sub-committee members. The application purports to be a new start with an applicant unconnected with how the premises has been run in recent years. Essex Police believe they are connected and that there are clear associations."

According to Essex Police, a new company was registered on August 7 under Surma Villa Ltd.

The police report said: "Essex Police contend that this is an attempt to create a 'phoenix company' to avoid a civil penalty fine that is likely to be levelled by immigration enforcement in consequence of the illegal workers being discovered."

Essex Police points out that Companies House shows India Villa was previously registered under Smart Spice Thaxted Ltd and is now currently registered under India Villa Thaxted Ltd.

According to documents lodged with Companies House, the sole director of India Villa Thaxted Ltd, Mohammad Akther Hussain, resides at the same address as the proposed deputy premises supervisor and director of Surma Villa Ltd, Shakil Hassain.

"It is reasonable to presume the persons are known to one another and that Mr Hussain is aware of this arrangement," Essex Police say.

The document reads: "The applicant is, in the police's view, a nominal to hold the licence whilst Mr Hussain continues to operate in the same manner he has done for years, a manner that ignores the Immigration Act and whose management continues to knowingly employ illegal workers."

India Villa declined to comment when approached by this newspaper.