Albanian gangsters sent illegal workers to build new AECC

Eastern European gangsters are under investigation for using a steel firm to staff the construction site of the new AECC with illegal workers.

The details of a UK Government investigation into Kupa Steelfixing Ltd were revealed yesterday at Aberdeen Sheriff Court, where Rebani Kupa admitted his involvement in the operation.

The court heard that Home Office officials swooped on the Bucksburn construction site amid a probe into the Albanian organised crime syndicate understood to be behind the sub-contractor.

Last night, a Home Office spokesman confirmed that six other Albanian nationals had been detained as a result of the inquiry.

Kupa, 35, admitted helping to bring illegal workers onto the £333million Aberdeen City Council development.

Fiscal, Alan Townsend, said: “A Home Office investigation team commenced an operation into an Albanian crime group last February.

“It focussed on Kupa Steelfixing Ltd, a firm which had been sub-contracted onto numerous large-scale construction sites.

“The investigation showed that many people employed by the company used false names and identification documents, under the pretence they were born in Kosova.

“A number of Albanian nationals were ultimately arrested for illegally being in the UK.”

The development of the 12,500-seat venue was contracted to Robertson, who sub-contracted Careys for elements of the work, and Careys in turn employed Kupa Steelfixing Ltd.

A Careys spokesman insisted that the company “completely distances itself from organised crime” and had performed all “due diligence” before appointing the steel firm.

He said: “We don’t work outside employment laws, and understood that this individual was permitted to work in the UK.”

Certain criminal groups are known to use illegal workers as they are commonly paid less, are easier to exploit and do not have employment rights.

Immigration officers paid several visits to the new AECC site in October to inspect the outfit, and were shown papers stating that Kupa had completed health and safety training in May 2016, which contained false information on his address.

Having compiled their case, Home Office staff attended the site later that month with police officers to arrest Kupa.

The accused was then interviewed at Edinburgh by the UK’s chief immigration officer, where he admitted working for Kupa Steelfixing Ltd for 18 months – during which time the organisation had been paying for his accommodation.

But Mr Townsend said the accused denied that he was related to those running the enterprise despite sharing the same surname.

The fiscal added: “The accused acknowledged that he may not have permission to work in the UK, and had been advised to say that he was Kosovan.”

Sheriff William Summers deferred sentence on Cupa until February 28, for the preparation of reports, when his lawyer will speak in mitigation.

A manager for Kupa Steelfixng Ltd, who did not want to be named, strenuously denied that the firm has any connection to organised crime.

He said: “I am aware that Rebani has been detained, but I am not aware of any wider investigation.

“We are still working on the AECC and have done nothing wrong.

“The men who were detained were sub-contractors, not employees, and we did our best to check their documentation.

“We have always been very careful, but have now taken extra steps to stop something like this happening again.

“It is not true that we are associated with organised crime, not at all.”

Aberdeen City Council declined to comment last night, but the Robertson construction group pledged to assist with the investigation.

A spokeswoman added: “This is an issue for Careys and their sub-contractor.

“However, we are aware of the investigation and will continue to do all we can to support the Home Office.”