OWNERS of Bolton takeaways, restaurants and shops have been fined a combined total of more than £125,000 — for employing illegal immigrants.

The Home Office has revealed in a Freedom of Information request that it has issued 17 civil penalties worth £127,500 to employers over the past three years, after they uncovered 59 people working illegally in the town.

And £75,000 has still not been paid — because the people responsible have left the businesses or shut up shop before paying up.

The Home Office has given The Bolton News exclusive details of the names of seven companies where illegal migrants were caught working by UK Border Agency inspectors — and whose owners have not paid their fines.

More than a third of the people uncovered working illegally were in shops in BL3 — covering Great Lever, Little Lever, Daubhill and Deane — with 23 people discovered between 2011 and 2013.

A spokesman from the Home Office said the fines were given to the owners, rather than the businesses, as it was employers who were breaking the law.

But he stressed the unpaid fines would be pursued through the courts.

The spokesman added: “Businesses in Bolton which follow the rules have nothing to fear, but those who either deliberately employ people with no right to work or fail to carry out the legally required checks on their staff should expect to face heavy financial penalties.

“Illegal working has a negative impact on communities. It defrauds the taxpayer, undercuts honest employers and cheats legitimate job seekers out of employment opportunities.

“We are doubling the fines for rogue businesses who use illegal labour and the Immigration Bill will make it easier to enforce any unpaid debts.”

The worst offender were the managers of food shop Barkat, in Derby Street, who were fined £20,000 in September, 2012.

Current manager, Dater Jabir, said he had never employed illegal immigrants — and said it was the previous owners who were responsible for the fine.

He added: “I have managed this shop for one and a half years. I don’t know the names of the old managers.

“I do not employ illegal immigrants.”

A £15,000 civil penalty was given to the owners of Chinese takeaway Peony, in Wigan Road, Deane. The shop has since closed.

Meanwhile the current owners of Braza Persian Restaurant in Great Moor Street denied they were responsible for the outstanding £10,000 fine, which was imposed in January, 2012.

Sakineh Bahrami has been the manager of Braza Persian restaurant since July 2012 — seven months after the fine was issued.

He said: “I have had this business since July 14 2012.

"Any incident concerning the previous owner and UKBA has nothing to do with the current business."

The owners of Fui Rui Wu takeaway in Market Street, Farnworth, were slapped with a £10,000 fine in May, 2011.

It has since changed hands and become Golden Dragon. The Bolton News was unable to reach the previous owners.

Kani Restaurant in Derby Street, Daubhill, was also fined £10,000. However manager Kal Ahmed said he took over the business in November, 2013 and does not know the name of the person he bought it from.

He said: “It is not my fine. It is not my problem.”

And the managers of Leena Tandoori in Bradshawgate and Shabna Tandoori in Manchester Road, Kearsley, were ordered to pay £5,000.

A spokesman for Bismi Eatery, which owns Shabna Tandoori, said the fine applied to the premises in February 2013 — and was nothing to do with them.

He said: “We took over the takeaway business in May 2013 and decided to retain the original name of 'Shabna Tandoori' as it was already an established name and known to the local customers and we wanted to build on that.

“We have never employed illegal immigrants and therefore have never had a penalty fine imposed upon us.”

The manager of Leena contacted The Bolton News from Bangladesh to refute the claims.

He said: “The fine is not for me. I have owned Leena for one and a half years, and it was the company before me that were responsible for the fine.

“Never in my life have I employed illegal immigrants.”

The names of the 10 other businesses fined were not given by the Home Office, as they said they had paid or were paying the civil penalties.