The owner of a noodle franchise, busted in a government raid last week, has claimed he was ‘‘unaware’’ eight immigrants had been illegally working in his South Coast restaurants.
During the blitz, a Taiwanese woman and a Malaysian woman were found to have been working illegally at Delicious Noodle House in Warilla.
The raid also uncovered six illegal workers at Delicious Noodle House eateries in Bega, Moruya and Merimbula.
The Department of Immigration discovered seven of the workers were unlawful non-citizens with no valid visas.
A Chinese woman, working in Bega, was found to have a student visa with work rights but had not been attending her approved studies.
The department cancelled her visa.
Delicious Noodle House owner Mr Xu, who would not give his first name, said he was ‘‘sorry’’ for hiring the workers, who had been employed for about six months.
‘‘I feel very sorry; I should have checked properly,’’ he said.
‘‘Next time I will check properly; I didn’t know they were illegal, some of them had a driver’s licence.
‘‘They were skilled workers.’’
Mr Xu said his Moruya restaurant has been closed since the blitz and would not open again.
The owner told the Mercury he hadn’t been closely involved with the business, claiming staff had largely managed themselves.
He said he had entered the restaurants every three or four weeks to ‘‘check up’’.
The workers, along with four other people from the South Coast, were removed in the operation and detained at Villawood Detention Centre.
Employers face hefty fines and civil penalties if they are found to have employed people without a valid work visa.
Fines for employers range from $3060 to $76,500 per illegal worker.
Businesses convicted of hiring an illegal worker face fines of up to $20,400 and two years’ imprisonment.
A Department of Immigration and Border Protection spokesperson would not say whether they had issued any fines or how the department was alerted to the illegal workers.
The spokesperson said investigations were continuing.