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Jailed restaurateur hit with 12-year ban after £1m tax fraud

Jailed restaurateur Lam Chin Seong, from Barnet, has been banned from running companies for 12 years after he was found to owe HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) over £1m.

Seong was the sole director of Novari Limited and Novari (at the O2) Limited, which were both incorporated in 2012.

The companies traded as the Water Margin Chinese Restaurant in Portsmouth, as well as the Water Margin Chinese Restaurant and Water Margin Jazz Club in Greenwich.

Each company had an annual turnover in excess of £1 million. However, Seong falsely registered the companies with the regulator, describing them as “arts-based businesses” with estimated annual turnover of £10,000 and £80,000.

He then failed to file VAT returns for either company, which caused HMRC to raise assessments on the companies’ behalf based on their falsely declared annual turnovers.

The assessments were, for much smaller amounts than was owed – sometimes only for hundreds of pounds, meaning over £1 million in taxes went unpaid over four-and-a-half years.

In July 2016, an investigation uncovered the fraud, and the restaurants ceased to trade soon after. He then put both companies into liquidation in winter 2016 and autumn 2017 respectively, pleading guilty to fraudulent evasion of VAT in November 2018.

Secretary of State approved the 12-year ban, which went live earlier this month (July). The ban will see Seong unable to be directly or indirectly becoming involved, without the permission of the court, in the promotion, formation or management of a company.

David Brooks, chief investigator, Insolvency Service, said: “Lam Chin Seong demonstrated a willful disregard for the tax authorities and a 12-year ban prevents him from using limited liability to carry on his business practice in such a way.

“This case illustrates the excellent day-to-day relationship the Insolvency Service has with HMRC, and we will continue to work with our partners to prevent misconduct.”

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