New raid on market gardens

Foreign workers were seen running from paddocks into bush to hide as police and about 10 other government agencies yesterday swarmed the Carabooda headquarters of the company allegedly behind a major illegal labour racket.

Almost 50 officials from departments including the Corruption and Crime Commission, WorkSafe, Energy Safety and the Fair Work Ombudsman's office spent hours inspecting the family-owned operation in what is believed to be the biggest inter-agency raids conducted in WA.

It is believed significant issues were identified by most agencies including suspected illegal electricity syphoning, unauthorised gas plumbing and other construction works, as well as almost 30 workplace safety hazards.

Investigators have also revealed that they plan to use bikie-style anti-fortification laws to force the owners to pull down 3m-high walls that were allegedly built illegally around their sprawling compound.

The anti-fortification laws are designed to allow police easy access to premises where it is suspected crimes were being committed. They have never been used before to target anyone other than motorcycle gangs.

Organised Crime Squad Det- Insp. Chris Adams said yesterday's action was phase two of a continuing operation targeting members of the Le family and their business network.

Phase one was launched on May 3 when hundreds of State and Federal police stormed the same Carabooda property along with dozens of other neighbouring businesses, taking almost 200 illegal workers into custody.

Guns, drugs and cash have also been seized as part of Operation Tricord-Polo.

"We have previously targeted the criminal aspect of what we allege is a highly organised syndicate and phase two is now utilising the powers of multiple agencies to ensure compliance with all other relevant bylaws and legislation," Det. Insp. Adams said.

Brothers Michael and Canh Le were present yesterday, along with their lawyer Anthony Martin, as their business network was picked over by inspectors.

The brothers were charged with offences of harbouring illegal workers and dealing in the proceeds of crime in phase one of the operation.

They are yet to face court on the charges.

The City of Wanneroo and the WA Building Commission are understood to have identified structures including accommodation blocks and sheds that were built contrary to or without approvals.

It is likely some will have to be pulled down. Western Power is also testing the amount of electricity being used on the property after high-voltage cabling was found that does not appear on any relevant plans.

The Fair Work Ombudsman's office is believed to have seized pay records and interviewed workers about conditions including on-site living arrangements.

The Ombudsman is yet to reveal what, if any, action will be taken.

The West Australian

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