Immigrant cleaners detained in false identity case

In organised action, police find that cleaning personnel at the University of Copenhagen are working under false identities

Copenhagen police carried out a raid aimed at the University of Copenhagen’s cleaning staff on Monday and took nine of the 33 cleaning personnel into custody on the suspicions that they are working illegally under false identities, Politiken newspaper reported. 

On Tuesday, three of the detainees appeared in City Court for a preliminary hearing on charges of using a false identity, and residing and working in Denmark illegally. The detainees will be in police custody for 13 days.

According to senior prosecutor Erik Hjelm,  the police crackdown at the university reveals only the tip of the iceberg.

"It represents a picture of the organised crime of renting of identity. Now the police trying to get an overall picture of prevalence in the 13 days they are in custody,” Hjelm told Politiken.

During the hearing, a 37-year-old Ghanaian woman testified via an interpreter.

"When I came to Denmark I could not find any work for nine months,” she said. “I met a man who claimed that he has a cleaning company and offered help to get me a job. He also offered me to get legal permits for a sum. I told him that I would find the papers and then I met a woman who offered me her identity.”

The woman said that she paid 3,000 kroner of her monthly salary of 9,000 kroner to the woman as a payment for lending her identity. The other two cleaners, also Ghanaian, told the court that they used the same method to get a job. According to the police, a larger pattern is at work.

"The action is part of another investigation. Earlier this year we arrested seven people on the same ground,” deputy police commissioner Kjeld Farcinsen, head of the police’s immigration control group (Udlændingekontrolgruppen), told Politiken newspaper, adding that the fee of loaning an identity is typically 57 percent of the illegal worker’s salary.

The detained workers all work for Denmark’s second-largest cleaning company, Forenede Service, which recently came under fire for exploiting Romanian workers in Zealand. This time, however, the company has not been charged for employing the nine detainees.

“The company has done everything you possibly can to ensure that these individuals had their papers in order,” Farcisnsen told Politiken. “The cleaning company had no chance of knowing that they lied about their identities. If the employer asks to see a work permit, the workers just go back to the person whose identity they’ve borrowed and ask them for the permit.” 

Trade union magazine Fagbladet 3F, which broke the story of the Romanian workers, reported that Antonino Castrone, the deputy director at the University of Copenhagen would be meeting with Forenede Service on the matter.

“The right thing to do is to call a meeting with Forenede Service and ask them to explain what happened from their point of view, and then I’ll hear whether all guidelines were met, including taxes,” Castrone told Fagbladet 3F.  “I'd like to have assurance that the companies we work with comply with all the proper guidelines.”

Fagbladet 3F reported that Castrone was not planning on keeping closer tabs on external suppliers of services to the university.

“From a resource standpoint, it would be too cumbersome if we are going to control external suppliers because they are already being checked by other authorities and auditors,” he said.

The police will further investigate the nine workers over the authenticity of their papers. After the interrogation, the workers will be either released or could face imprisonment of 40 days and a travel ban for six years.

According to Politiken, the nine detainees are from countries including Sweden, Ghana, Thailand, Turkey and Belgium.