Inspectors swoop on dodgy traders

Checks carried out on stores located in what are known as dodgy streets discovered that over half of all employees were violating labour legislation.  One in five workers hadn't been registered with the authorities and was working cash in hand.  At some stores illegal aliens were at work and in two instances people-trafficking was discovered.  The checks were carried out in Antwerp, Brussels and Ghent.

Streets with high concentrations of night shops, telephone stores, exotic restaurants, snack bars and launderettes were targeted. Their rather bizarre opening hours and low prices set alarm bells ringing. The premises were checked by mixed teams including local police officers as well as social inspectors, food safety officials and customs.  435 establishments were checked including 561 employees in Antwerp, Brussels, Ghent, Charleroi and Liege.  Of the 561 employees 288 were violating labour laws.  34 did not possess a valid residence permit.  24 were benefit claimants and 66 were working more hours than declared.

Social inspector Marilyn De Decker was at work in Anderlecht:  "At a business sorting paper we discovered ten undocumented people.  They worked at night so people wouldn't notice.  They were prepared to jump into the canal to avoid the inspectors.  Fortunately, we were numerous and had police dogs to prevent them jumping."

Co-operation between various services is essential.  Social inspector Karel Deridder: "Fraud is an octopus.  If every service chops off two limbs the beast stays alive."

The number of stores being checked has doubled in recent years, but results show a lot of work still needs to be done."

Results of checks can lead to businesses being closed down.  A lot of information is used to map out money laundering.