Nando’s Franchise Owner facing 22 charges over illegal workers

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Melbourne 25 Jul 2013 – A Melbourne restaurant owner is facing 22 charges for employing foreign students in breach of their visa conditions.

A spokesman for the Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC) said today it was alleged the students had worked illegally in Anni Kartawidjaja’s stores over a two-and-a-half-year period. The spokesman said five of her employees have also been charged over their involvement in the scam.

“More than 90 charges are expected to be laid as a result of an Immigration-led investigation,” the spokesman said.

Ms Kartawidjaja allegedly organised Indonesian nationals to travel to Australia on student visas to work in breach of their visa conditions at her Nando’s restaurants and other grocery stores. Most of the illegal workers allegedly resided at her properties while paying rent, internet, telephone, and heating bills to Kartawidjaja, often as salary deductions.

“It is imperative that employers understand they may be penalised for compromising the integrity of visa programs,” the spokesman said. “The department’s focus is to address the actions of businesses that wilfully take part in illegal work – not to penalise businesses which act in good faith.”

Evidence obtained during the investigation indicates that key management staff were told to turn a blind eye to the illegal workers. If convicted under the Migration Act, Kartawidjaja and her associates could face up to 12 months’ imprisonment for each charge. Where the department becomes aware of fraud, these matters are fully investigated and can result in both criminal and administrative penalties.

“It has been a criminal offence to hire illegal workers since 2007 – an offence that carries substantial penalties including fines and/or prison terms,” the spokesman said.

“In addition, new reforms came into effect on June 1 that introduced a tiered approach of infringement notices, civil penalties, and criminal prosecutions to support awareness, encourage compliance and provide a strong response when necessary.”

Source: DIAC Newsroom

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