London, July 31 : An illegal worker from Russia reportedly managed to be employed as a Royal footman, and served tea to the Queen.
Moscow-born Igor Golovanov, 32, was said to be a member of the Buckingham Palace staff for about two years without having a proper work permit, which technically made him an illegal immigrant.
His job as a footman and trainee butler took him to Buckingham Palace, Windsor Castle, Balmoral and Sandringham.
He got a flat inside the Palace, rode on gilded carriages, and rubbed shoulders with heads of state and PM Gordon Brown.
Igor served Prince Charles and Prince Andrew, and got to know the other Royals.
"I couldn't believe this was the monarch and her husband," British tabloid The Sun quoted him as saying, when he served Her Majesty and Prince Philip.
However, his work permit was invalid all the time, and he was in violation of his UK visa.
Igor, the only Russian on the staff, said Buckingham Palace failed to check his credentials.
He even said that he never felt the need for proper documentation, believing that he was working for the Royals.
However, when stunned Palace staff finally found out recently, Igor was sacked and warned to leave Britain.
"Now I am likely to be forced out of the UK because of their negligence. They have broken the law by employing me and now they keep phoning to say I should leave the country as quickly as possible. I think I have been badly treated," Igor said.
"I love your country because of its culture, its food, its people and its sense of humour. I just hope someone will take my side and help me to stay," he added.
New laws in the country provide for fining or even jailing employers for taking on illegal workers.
"When I was interviewed for the job they did not make any copies of my documents and made no checks on my immigration status," Igor said.
"They should have applied for a work permit for me. But they didn't, meaning that when I started work there I was breaching the terms of my UK visa.
"That meant I was effectively an illegal immigrant working for the Royal household - but no one even noticed," he said.
He added: "I was the only Russian working at the Palace. For that reason alone I thought my employment would be examined very closely."
Igor, who came to Britain on a student visa in 2000 to do a masters degree in hospitality at Bournemouth University, landed his first job as a trainee at a hotel in the seaside town.
He was granted a temporary work permit by immigration officials on condition that he would work only for that particular hotel.
When the hotel owners later announced that they were planning to shut shop, Igor looked for another job.
He saw a Buckingham Palace ad for a trainee butler, and sent off an application in January 2006.
"I had two interviews and was told I had got the job but as a footman instead. They asked what my plans were and I told them I hoped to stay in the UK permanently," he said.
"I showed them all my papers and explained I would need a new work permit to be employed at Buckingham Palace. But they made no copies and took no notes. I never heard anything about work permits again," he added.
Igor added: "I had to wait nearly seven months for security checks. Then they wrote to me in September to say I had formally got the job."
He took up his post in October 2006.
"My duties to begin with were valeting and food and beverages. I served senior members of the Royal household - people like the Queen's Private Secretary and so on," he said.
"Then as I got more experienced I was given similar tasks but with the Royals themselves. I served meals, tea and coffee to the Queen and Prince Philip, and the Duke of York. They were incredibly polite to me even though I was so junior," he added.
Royal staff got to know about the blunder only after Igor himself told them about his immigration status.
"My temporary visa runs out in August and I wanted to stay in the UK permanently. To do that I needed an employer's reference so I emailed the Palace's personnel department," Igor said.
He said that the authorities were shocked to find that there was no work permit in his file, and that he was told just 10 minutes later that his contract was being terminated because he was working as an illegal immigrant.
A latter senior personnel manager Steven Napier wrote to Igor revealed the Palace's embarrassment.
It read: "Dear Igor. Given your statements, and in the circumstances, whilst there is no legal obligation to pay you in respect of your notice period, we are prepared to make you a payment."
The letter added: "A P45 will be forwarded to you in due course. Whilst we are obviously supportive of you in wanting to ensure you are given appropriate advice, we must also ensure we have complied with the correct procedures, given your circumstances as you now understand them."
A Palace spokesman has confirmed that Igor's contract has been terminated after the discovery of error.