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Man ran human trafficking ring in UK.

A fish and chip shop magnate who headed the British end of an international human trafficking ring has admitted breaking immigration controls.

Balwinder Singh Chatha (44) was arrested in October 2003 when National Crime Squad officers raided 17 addresses, including 12 takeaway outlets, in Shropshire and Powys.

Five other family members were detained at the time with 18 illegal immigrants.

It followed the launch of an operation - codenamed Abietite - in February 2003, focusing on Chatha's activities smuggling Sikhs from the Punjab through Paris and into the UK.

As part of the same operation, the French authorities arrested four people and detained 11 illegal immigrants in raids in Paris.

Chatha, of Limes Paddock, Dorrington, Shrewsbury, Shropshire, pleaded guilty at Wolverhampton Crown Court yesterday to conspiracy to commit a breach of immigration law.

His sister-in-law, Bakshinder Kaur Chatha (35), of the same address, and Charan Singh (48), of Hamilton, Leicester, admitted facilitating a breach of immigration law at the same hearing.

All three will be sentenced next month.

One of Chatha's other relatives has been dealt with for deception offences. The other three detained in the October 2003 raid were released without charge.

The people arrested in France are in custody awaiting trial.

Detective Superintendent Paul Owen, of the National Crime Squad, said: 'Today marks another significant step in the on-going battle to disrupt and dismantle organised crime networks involved in this lucrative and harmful activity.

'We aim to make the UK the most hostile environment for them to try to operate in. It is the culmination of months of hard work and close cooperation between a number of agencies.

'There has been a great deal of support given to the operation by the Ocriest (Central office for the repression of illegal immigration and the employment of illegal immigrants) in France, the West Mercia and West Midlands Police forces, the Immigration Service and the National Criminal Intelligence Service.'

Mr Owen said the immigrants paid thousands of pounds to the sophisticated network and were put up in safe houses in France before being transported to the UK.

All the immigrants who were detained have been dealt with by the Immigration Service.
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Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:Nov 18, 2004
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