When a Family Solicitor came to us requiring evidence that her client needed evidence that his ex-wife was working in the Italian restaurant owned by her new partner we knew that we had to prove. Substantially that she was working full-time and not just merely helping during some unforeseen staff shortage. We needed to prove it was regular work that she was more than likely to be paid for as opposed to ad hoc and potentially cash in hand.
We always consider the potential defence, excuse or alibi that somebody will give and that is ingrained in our investigation process. We knew over a short period of time we needed to show consistency of employment for financial remuneration. We needed to consider how we could negate any excuse for her being involved with the restaurant and passing it off as not being for financial payment.
Phase one involved two surveillance officers going into the restaurant for a meal wearing covert video cameras, we clearly observed that the wife was not merely working waiting on tables but was actually responsible as the Maitre D, responsible for six waiting staff, responsible for greeting and seating the customers and taking all payments bills. With the exception of one bar staff she was the only one that went behind the bar and had access to the till and a card payment machine.
Later in the week different officers again entered the restaurant with the covert cameras and gathered the evidence of her continuing with this work.
Phase two involved contacting the restaurant in order to make the appointment to go and discuss taking the venue for a private party. The call was taken by the wife who gave her name and contact details and a male and female officer made an appointment and attended the restaurant to discuss a wedding anniversary party and were met by the wife.
Again the whole meeting was recorded on covert video camera with audio. The wife had clear responsibility for private parties, she designed the menu with our officers, the seating plan, could arrange the entertainment for the evening, the choice of wines and even arrange for a celebration cake and flower decorations to be made and delivered.
During the natural conversation between the officers and the wife it was established that she had been working at the venue for over 12 months, and in general conversation she was clearly promoting the benefits of the venue and their dedication to customer satisfaction. She also stated that the restaurant was owned by her partner and also discussed expansion plans potentially opening a second restaurant within 12 months.
The evidence proved that clearly she had some proprietary control and significant authority and specific roles within the business which indicated well beyond the balance of probability and one would suggest beyond reasonable doubt that she was in full-time paid employment.
We served up a plate of evidence with all the covert video and audio recordings for a Family Solicitor to digest and then take appropriate action.