AN INDIAN restaurant recognised as being among the best in the Westcountry was raided by immigration officials just days before it was set to be considered for a top award.
A pair of Bangladeshi men was found working illegally at Viceroy Indian, Dunkeswell, near Cullompton, when the UK Border Agency made an unannounced visit recently.
The restaurant, which prides itself on contemporary cuisine, was only one of four Devon restaurants shortlisted for a gong in the British Curry Awards, of which Madhur Jaffrey and Heston Blumenthal OBE have been previous winners.
Kenny Chapman, of the UK Border Agency, said: "Our teams are carrying out operations like this across Devon on a regular basis.
"Offenders should know that there is no hiding place and that where we find people who are in the UK illegally, we will seek to remove them.
"We are also looking to target employers who take in illegal workers and who encourage illegal immigration in the process.
"We're happy to work with businesses to let them know what checks need to be made on staff, but those who choose to break the law should know that they will face heavy fines."
Officers raided the Culme Way restaurant, which was nominated alongside others from Somerset, Bristol and Cheltenham for the Best Spice Restaurant South West, where they found a 21-year-old had overstayed his visa while a 22-year-old had entered the UK illegally.
A similar operation was carried-out at restaurants in Exeter and two Chinese men were arrested from All Day 6 and three Bangladeshi men were also removed from Chadni Express, Pinhoe.
The businesses each face fines of up to £10,000 for each worker and to avoid a fine, the employers must provide evidence that the correct right-to-work checks were carried-out. A spokesperson for the restaurant said checks were carried-out and that the raid was "common practice."
Viceroy Indian was invited to the gala event which was held in London last night, after the Gazette went to print. The ceremony has given other big name culinary personalities Special Recognition Awards in the past, which include Cyrus Todiwala OBE and Shelim Hussain.
A "pioneer in the UK catering and hospitality sector", the British Curry Awards has been lauded as a pivotal UK institution, with Prime Minister David Cameron calling the ceremony the 'Curry Oscars'.
Enam Ali MBE, an entrepreneur who founded the awards in 2005, said: "Curry may be born in India, but British Bangladeshis globalised it."
Cinnamon's, Axminster, Denley's Essence of India, Topsham, and Maha Bharat, Kingsbridge, are the other Devon restaurants shortlisted for the award.
An awards' spokesperson would not comment on immigration matters.