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Illegal booze sees bans for East London convenience store bosses

Two directors of an East London convenience store that sold illegal alcohol have been disqualified from running companies for a combined total of 18 years.

Mohammad Akbar (61) and Sheraz Ahmad (29) now of Mansfield, Nottinghamshire, together ran Shiraz Food & Wine, a convenience store incorporated in August 2012 and located on the Hackney Road close to Hoxton in East London.

In December 2014 Shiraz Food & Wine was raided by Trading Standards, HMRC and the police, who found 351 bottles of illegal alcohol.

This was the largest seizure of illegal booze in the London Borough of Tower Hamlets for many years and led to the store?s licence being revoked by the local authority.
However, this caused a significant reduction in Shiraz Food & Wine?s turnover, eventually leading to the convenience store?s closure in 2016.

After the company went into liquidation, an investigation by the Insolvency Service discovered that Mohammad Akbar was the sole director of the company before the raids took place and failed to prevent Sheraz Ahmad from purchasing the illegal wine and spirits from a van driver before selling them in the store.

As a result, the Secretary of State accepted disqualification undertakings from both Mohammad Akbar and Sheraz Ahmad.

In his undertaking, Mohammad Akbar did not dispute that his inaction facilitated Sheraz Ahmad, who was not a shareholder or a formally appointed director, to cause Shiraz Food & Wine to trade with a lack of commercial probity.

And Sheraz Ahmad did not dispute in his undertaking that he caused Shiraz Food & Wine to trade with a lack of commercial probity.

Effective from 6 August, Mohammad Akbar is disqualified for 7 years and Sheraz Ahmad is banned for 11 years, and the pair cannot directly or indirectly be involved, without the permission of the court, in the promotion, formation or management of a company.

A spokesperson from Tower Hamlets Council said:

Whilst the potential health risks of fake alcohol are well known, businesses who sell cheap smuggled goods also create unfair competition for the majority of law abiding businesses in the borough.

Tower Hamlets Environmental Health and Trading Standards team works closely with our partners in HMRC and the Metropolitan Police to seize illegal product from the market place and take action against those who flout the law. This latest action by the Insolvency Service follows one such successful joint operation against shops that were found to be trading illegally and shows our ongoing commitment to protect residents and honest traders alike.

Anthony Hannon, Official Receiver at Public Interest Unit, said:

Sheraz Ahmad thought he could cut a few corners when he bought the illegal booze and Mohammad Akbar did nothing to stop him. But this could have led to serious consequences as there was no guarantee the alcohol was safe to sell to the public.
Thanks to the joint working with our colleagues from the various agencies involved, we have secured substantial bans for the two bosses, preventing them from setting up another business and possibly doing the same again.

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Construction director banned for failing to declare sales income

The director of a construction company based in Cradley Heath has been disqualified for seven years after he failed to declare all the company?s sales income.

Martin Baker was the sole director of C.J.M Tiling Limited (CJMT), which was incorporated in 2007 and traded as a construction company in Cradley Heath, West Midlands.

On 3 December 2015 and 4 March 2016, HMRC made unannounced visits to CJMT and identified the construction company had under-declared its VAT liabilities by failing to disclose all its sales.

Furthermore, an additional bank account was identified in which sales income was deposited. HMRC raised an officer?s assessment for additional VAT liabilities of ?205,262 for the period June 2012 to December 2015, as well as applying civil penalties of ?90,146 to the company.

CJMT later entered liquidation on 26 January 2017 owing ?469,673 to creditors, including at least ?344,221 for VAT, and following the company?s liquidation, the Insolvency Service carried out its own investigations, leading to Martin Baker?s disqualification.

On 21 May 2018, the Secretary of State for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy accepted a disqualification undertaking from, Martin Baker, effective from 11 June 2018, for a period of 7 years.

In giving the undertaking, Martin Baker admitted that he failed to ensure the company declared its true VAT liabilities on returns submitted to HMRC between June 2012 to December 2015, by failing to disclose all its sales.

Martin Baker further admitted that a second company bank account was not disclosed to HMRC. This resulted in under-declarations of VAT due, as a consequence of which penalties were raised.

His ban means Martin Baker cannot promote, manage, or be a director of a limited company.

Commenting on the disqualification, Jane Knight, deputy head of insolvency investigations for the Insolvency Service, said:

Under-declaration of the VAT due by a company deprives the exchequer of the monies needed to provide public services.

In co-operation with HMRC, the Insolvency Service will not hesitate to investigate such misconduct with disqualification as a director the likely outcome.

Kent pension company shut down in the interest of investors

The High Court ordered into liquidation a pension company which invested in storage products after it was found to have abused millions of investors? savings.

Chartwell Trustee Pension Solutions Ltd (Chartwell), was the sole trustee of the Pinnacle Pension Scheme and was incorporated on 14 December 2007. Its registered office was Kingfisher House, Bromley, Kent.

The Insolvency Service launched an investigation into the company?s activities following complaints received by it and Action Fraud.

The investigation found:

the company was entrusted with in excess of ?4.8m of members? pension funds following an apparent cold-calling telesales operation. Members were told that they could expect a guaranteed 8% return into their pension for the first two years and that further returns may follow

members were told their pensions would be invested in ?storage products?. However, records provided by the company to the Insolvency Service investigators were incomplete, and it did not provide the investigators with an adequate explanation for the application of the funds it received

customers experienced enormous difficulties in contacting the company, received very little information from the company and do not appear to have been issued with any Annual Returns, which are supposed to provide them with details of their invested funds, since October 2015

Investigators were unable to obtain any clear view of how the company operated and records the company did provide were incomplete, inconsistent, and contradicted information the company had itself provided to The Pensions Regulator.

The company was wound up by the court on Wednesday 6 June 2018, on the petition of the Secretary of State for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy, following an investigation by the Insolvency Service.

The Court said that it was appropriate, desirable, and in the interest of investors to make an order to place the company into insolvent liquidation.

Judge Prentis found that the company operated with a lack of commercial probity, a lack of transparency, and without any presence at its Registered Office address.

Investigators were unable to obtain any clear view of how the company operated.

Nobody appeared on behalf of the company to oppose the petition.

Investigation Supervisor Irshard Mohammed, of the Insolvency Service, said:

Those behind companies such as Chartwell should be aware that the Insolvency Service will not tolerate such abuses of the corporate regime. It is telling that this situation appears to have arisen from telephone cold-calling.

Members of the public should be most wary when approached with investment proposals or proposals of how to manage their pension, through unsolicited telephone calls.

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