Abusive gangmaster fails to deceive – GLA traps a phoenix
6th August 2008
A new business has been refused a Gangmasters Licensing Authority (GLA) licence because of serious concerns of ‘phoenixing’, and its decision has been fully supported at appeal. Primeval Limited of Sparkhill, Birmingham, Principal Authority, Mr Nazir Ahmed, was inspected by the GLA after it applied for a new licence.
However, it was not long before alarm bells started to ring. At the start of the inspection GLA inspectors had to ask front man of banned A-Z Employment, Mazhar Iqbal, to leave. A-Z Employment had been closed down by the GLA at the end of 2007 for a series of worker abuses and illegal practices at vegetable packing firm, Simms and Wood (see editor’s notes).
During the inspection of Primeval, the GLA found:
• there were certificates on display belonging to Mazhar Iqbal and another exemployee of A-Z Employment
• all the paperwork presented was a duplication of the paperwork used by A – Z Employment Other similar pieces of evidence led the GLA to conclude that Primeval was not, in fact, run by Nazir Ahmed, but that it was a front for the previous business of A - Z Employment with those previously involved there being involved at Primeval Limited.
In refusing the licence of Primeval Limited the GLA also found:
• HMRC checks revealed: no trace in their system of Mr Ahmed, an incorrect NI number, no company registration date or number for PAYE or VAT purposes
• The Companies house number was incorrect
• The Company could not meet standards on; payment of wages, tax, NI VAT and allied matters, health and safety, contracts, legality and rights of workers, prevention of harsh treatment or intimidation of workers. Primeval Limited appealed against the decision to refuse the licence.
In dismissing this, the Appointed Person, said:
“I have grave concerns as to the ability of the Principal Authority to act as a fit and proper person in regard to his duties in particular because his English is so poor, he lacks business acumen and he was manifestly ignorant in relation to key aspects of knowledge which is required to have been regarded as a fit and proper person to hold a gangmasters’ licence.
“I am also troubled by the clear links between the appellant and A-Z Employment.” Paul Whitehouse, Chairman of the GLA, said:
“Primeval Limited is nothing more than a ‘phoenix’ company. It’s a scam and a sham.
“If an abusive gangmaster thinks he can simply set up shop under a different name with someone to front the operation up who is no more than a puppet, he needs to think again.”
Notes to editors
1. A to Z Employment Services Limited based in Sparkhill, Birmingham had its licence revoked with immediate effect in December 2007, meaning that it must stop trading immediately or face prosecution action for trading as a gangmaster without a licence.
The main reasons for revoking the licence with immediate effect were:
• an illegal and seriously un-roadworthy minibus being used to transport workers
• the boss of the agency instructed a worker to put clingfilm on a serious cut and to continue working on a food production line.
2. So far, the GLA has licensed approximately 1,200. 70 licences have been revoked (7 with immediate effect). 1 person has been prosecuted for operating without a licence, with more prosecutions forthcoming.
3. The GLA stepped up its fight against those who abuse workers with the launch of Operation Ajax in June. The operation was set up to increase the GLA’s activities with an 18-month programme of unannounced raids.
4. Paul Whitehouse, GLA Chairman, is available for interview.
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