An Athlone businessman left court €1,535 poorer this week (March 13 ) after being convicted of employing illegal labour and of obstructing the subsequent investigation by the Department of Enterprise.
An inspector for the Department told Judge Seamus Hughes how he had made a spot check at the Imperial House Restaurant, Northgate Street, Athlone on November 14, 2011 at 8pm, and that when he identified himself, “somebody went out the back door”.
The inspector told the judge he tried three times to apprehend this individual, but that the proprietor - Leon Nam (55 ) - refused to co-operate, or give the abscondee’s name.
“We found deficiencies with regard to work permits,” he said.
The inspector called again in April 2012 when there were “no records of employees available”, but which he added: “has since been rectified”.
“To be fair, they were recorded for Revenue, but weren’t recorded for employment purposes,” said the inspector.
“I’m lost. Who disappeared into thin air? Or into a pot of curry sauce?” enquired Judge Hughes.
Solicitor for the restaurant, Mr Robert Kelly, told him this was a man known as Bing who had been seeking employment, been given a trial, but who “didn’t work out”.
“So he walked in the front door and ran out the back? He was employed without records. He could’ve been a murderer or an arsonist. Do you expect the court to believe this?” asked the judge.
Mr Kelly told the court this mysterious Mr Bing had since left the jurisdiction, and that his client had subsequently assisted the Department with all its enquiries.
“On the night in question there was no such co-operation. He didn’t even say who he was. He has satisfied the Department since but wasn’t alright on the night,” said Mr Peter D Jones for the State.
Mr Kelly pointed out his client was in business in Athlone for more than 20 years, and had no previous convictions.
Told he could face a total of €10,000 in penalties, Nam was fined €800 by Judge Hughes, and ordered he pay State expenses of a further €735.