Farmer faces £200,000 bill over illegal workers

A Perth farmer faces a bill of almost £200,000 after 250 Bulgarians were found illegally working on his farm.

David Leslie was fined £500 after he pleaded guilty to using an unlicensed gangmaster on his fruit farm in Scones of Lethendy, Perthshire.

Following an investigation from the Gangmasters Licensing Authority in 2008, Mr Leslie was forced to send the workers home, paying travel costs of £19,000.

His company, David Leslie Fruits, also faces a bill of about £174,000 to cover the workers’ tax and national insurance.

Perth Sheriff Court heard Mr Leslie had employed Bulgarian workers after his Polish fruit pickers had left the UK in 2007 because of the falling value of the pound.

Mr Leslie flew to Bulgaria and agreed with two companies, Concordia and Total Services, to bring 250 Bulgarian workers to Scotland.

But paperwork which appeared to confirm they were entitled to work in the UK were found to be application forms when translated by GLA staff.

Sheriff Lindsay Foulis accepted the firm was “caught in a situation” and limited Mr Leslie’s fine to £500.

Paul Whitehouse, GLA chairman, said the case showed it was not worth the risk of using an unlicensed gangmaster.

“David Leslie Fruits Limited have paid the price for using an illegal gangmaster,” he said.

“This prosecution sends a warning to all farmers who are tempted to use unlicensed labour providers whether they are in this country or abroad.”

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