Freshways Dairy has vowed to clear its name after a dawn raid by immigration officials at its Acton site.

Following the 4am raid on 27 May, 24 men were arrested by UK Border Agency officers for alleged immigration offences, including illegal entry to the UK, working in breach of visa conditions and overstaying visas. Twenty two of the men arrested were Indian nationals, while the other two were from Pakistan.

Freshways, which claims to be the largest independent family-run processing dairy in the country, now faces a fine of up to £270,000 for employing the men unless it can prove it had carried out the correct right-to-work checks before it did so.

Speaking to The Grocer, Freshways sought to play down the incident. "All the people removed from the site were released within a few hours and some of these people were removed purely on the basis that they were carrying no ID at 4am in the morning," said director Bali Nijjar. "We can categorically state that all Border Agency regulations are fully complied with at all times and we carry the correct work documents for anyone that was arrested."

A further three men, also from India and Pakistan, were found to be working illegally and were escorted from the premises.

The UK Border Agency highlighted the serious nature of the allegations. "Illegal working is not a victimless crime. It has a serious impact on communities, undercutting wages and taking jobs from those genuinely allowed to work in the UK," said Olivia Nuttall, head of the UK Border Agency Ealing Local Immigration Team.