A Chinese restaurant in Eltham accused of employing three illegal workers who slept upstairs has had its licence suspended.

The Home Office says workers at China Noodle in Elm Terrace ran from the kitchen towards the door to escape when officers turned up out of the blue in January.

Immigration inspectors claim staff were so verbally abusive during their bust that they could have been arrested for public order offences.

Since the inspection, one of the three Chinese nationals has been granted leave to stay – while the other two have been released on immigration bail.

At a licensing meeting on April 4, the Home Office asked Greenwich councillors to revoke the restaurant’s licence.

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Chief immigration officer Daniel Twynam told councillors staff lied about a bedroom above the kitchen, claiming it was storage space before officers forced entry and found three beds.

He said: “When officers entered the premises the front counter staff appeared to call out to kitchen staff to warn them that immigration officers were on the premises, leading to an attempt by certain members to abscond.

“During the visit, the owner, Zheng He Zang, and his brother, Zeng Jain Zheng, were hostile and aggressive to officers. They continued to verbally abusive officers throughout.

“Other staff misled officers about the accommodation of the illegal workers, initially claiming the upstairs room was for storage only, until officers forced entry and found beds and personal items of the illegal workers.”

The Home Office called for the restaurant’s licence to be scrapped, claiming the licence holder, Zeng He Zheng, had failed to uphold his responsibilities by employing illegal workers.

“They have shown disregard to law and order and are not suitable to have the privilege of holding a licence,” Mr Twinning said.

The restaurant denied the illegal workers were employees at China Noodle, instead claiming they were simply helping out.

It claimed one of the arrested nationals was just a friend living upstairs, with the other beds being used by staff during their breaks.

A lawyer, speaking on behalf of the restaurant due to language difficulties, said they were apologetic about their behaviour.

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“I can’t press on the committee enough how apologetic they are for the behaviour and for any aggression experienced by the officers.

“I am told that there was no attempt to abscond, but at the time the officers were there there was a mix-up due to a language difficulty. They were trying to explain there was a full can of oil on the stove and were reaching to turn off the gas, not run away.

“Mr Zeng He fully recognises there is a need to cooperate and they were wrong to be aggressive.

“Nevertheless, they understand unequivocally, to cooperate with officers. The apology is unreserved.”

A panel of three councillors, led by cabinet member for enforcement Jackie Smith, decided to suspend the restaurant’s licence for a month and impose new conditions in line with Home Office requests.