Belfast Telegraph

Sunday Life

Migrant worker shame of Northern Ireland takeaway boss hit with £47k fine and suspended sentence


Emperor takeaway
Ciaran Barnes

By Ciaran Barnes

This is the businesswoman at the centre of a shameful cheap labour operation involving illegal Chinese immigrants smuggled into Northern Ireland.

Yan Yun He has put her Co Antrim home up for sale after being hit with a £47,000 confiscation order which has to be paid before January or she will face nine months in prison.

This was after the 39-year-old pleaded guilty to facilitating unlawful entry into the UK and possessing criminal property.

Miss He, who owns The Emperor takeaway in Lisburn, is one of only a handful people in Northern Ireland to be convicted of assisting the human trafficking trade.

She refused to talk to Sunday Life when this newspaper called to her four-bedroom semi-detached house, a short distance away from her Longstone Street workplace.

Emperor takeaway

“I have nothing for you, go away,” said Miss He when our reporter asked did she feel any shame for her role in the slave labour trade in light of the lorry deaths of 39 Vietnamese immigrants — 31 men and eight women.

Miss He was not involved in anyway in the Essex tragedy. But it is corrupt business owners like her who have fuelled the rise in people smuggling and that demand has led to dangerous operations such as the one in which the Vietnamese immigrants died.

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Last night cops on both sides of the border were still hunting brothers Ronan (40) and Christopher Hughes (34), whose Co Armagh haulage business has been linked to the lorry deaths.


Ronan Hughes

They are wanted on suspicion of 39 counts of manslaughter — charges Markethill truck driver Mo Robinson (25) who picked up the fatal load at Purfleet port in England already faces.

When Sunday Life called to the Hair Lounge in Monaghan town yesterday, owned by Anita Hughes, the wife of Chris Hughes, our reporter was told she was not there and would not be back for some time.

A fourth suspect Eamon Harrison (22), who is from Mayobridge, Co Down, is in custody in Dublin awaiting extradition to the UK to face 39 charges of manslaughter.

He is accused of bringing the refrigerated trailer the 39 Vietnamese nationals were found dead in to the Belgian dock of Zeebrugge before it sailed to Purfleet.


Christopher Hughes

Tracking data shows the same trailer made an almost identical journey the week before, stopping for five minutes during the early morning near a golf club at Orsett in Essex. A man who lives near the dirt-track alleged he had reported seeing “15 to 20” migrants jump out of a lorry three weeks earlier.

Like all other parts of the UK human trafficking, although hidden, exists in Northern Ireland.

This is a fact known only too well by disgraced Yan Yun He who ruthlessly exploited a desperate Chinese illegal immigrant, putting him to work in her business.

The terrified foreign national threw off his apron and fled out the back of the Lisburn takeaway when it was raided by officers from Immigration Enforcement’s Criminal and Financial Investigation (CFI) team. They were acting on intelligence that Miss He was taking advantage of illegal workers who were staffing the business. The Chinese national was detained following a chase and his boss was arrested.

Mo Robinson

At Craigavon Crown Court last month, she was sentenced to three months in prison suspended for three years after pleading guilty to facilitating unlawful entry to the UK and possessing criminal property.

Miss He was also hit with a £47,379 confiscation order which has to be paid by January 4 — if not she will face nine months in prison.

A judge ruled that this was the proportioned amount of criminal benefit that she profited from running her business using an illegal worker. The scheming takeaway owner has since put her house up for sale in order to find the cash. Welcoming Miss He’s sentence, CFI deputy director Magrath accused her of “profiting from criminal activity”.

He said: “Not only are we targeting and prosecuting criminals involved in immigration crime, but we are also determined that offenders should not profit from their criminal activity.

“This confiscation order will help to ensure Miss He forfeits a substantial sum of money. If she does not pay, she will end up behind bars, and the money owed would still be hanging over her head.”

The vast majority of illegal immigrants smuggled into Northern Ireland are forced into slave labour jobs in restaurants, takeaways and nail bars where they are paid a fraction of the minimum wage. The more unfortunate are made to work as sex slaves by ruthless gangmasters. Latest figures show that between 2016 and 2018 a total of 66 businesses across Northern Ireland were fined £1.3m for employing 118 illegal workers. Restaurants and takeaways account for 80 per cent of this figure.

In the majority of these cases the business owners did not face criminal charges. It is only in the most extreme and serious cases, like that involving Yan Yun He, that prosecutions have been brought.

Meanwhile the government of Vietnam yesterday said it was “deeply saddened” to learn the 39 migrants found dead in the back of the lorry Mo Robinson was driving are all believed to be its citizens, describing it as a “serious humanitarian tragedy”.

Le Thi Thu Hang, a spokeswoman for Vietnam’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said: “This is a serious humanitarian tragedy. We are deeply saddened by the incident and wish to extend our heartfelt condolences to the victims’ families.

“We wish they may soon overcome those tremendous pain and losses.”

The spokeswoman continued: “Vietnam strongly condemns human trafficking and considers it a serious crime subject to strict penalties.

“Vietnam calls upon countries in the region and around the world to step up cooperation in combating human trafficking in order to prevent the recurrence of such tragedy.”

She added: “We hope that the British side soon complete the investigation to bring those responsible for this tragedy to justice.”

In Vietnam, local media reported that police in the Ha Tinh province had arrested two people in connection with the deaths after launching an investigation into suspected human trafficking of workers.

The investigation was prompted when 10 families from Nghen Town, Thien Loc, Vinh Loc and Thanh Loc contacted authorities to say they had lost contact with their relatives.

Last night it was confirmed that a Vietnamese woman who texted her mum to say “I’m dying” was among those found dead in the lorry trailer in Essex.

Pham Thi Tra My (26) sent frantic messages to her family while she was in the refrigerated lorry trailer, writing: “I am dying, I can’t breathe. I love you very much Mum and Dad. I am sorry, Mother.”

Her heartbroken dad, Pham Van Thin, told Vietnamese media yesterday that he was informed in a phonecall from England that his daughter was among the victims.

“It is very painful,” he added.

Belfast Telegraph


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