O2 Arena restaurant owner guilty of VAT evasion

An O2 Arena restaurant owner who owed more than £1 million in company taxes has been sentenced to three years in prison.

Lam Chin Seong, the owner of Novari Limited and Novari (at the O2) Limited, was also disqualified from acting as a company director for 12 years.

It comes after an HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) investigation into each of the companies, which purported to be arts-based businesses with an estimated annual turnover of between £10,000 and £80,000.

However, it later emerged that the companies, actually operating as high-end restaurants, had annual turnovers in excess of £1 million. One of the restaurants, the Water Margin Jazz Club, was set over two floors inside London’s landmark O2 Arena.

Because the companies were falsely registered with HMRC, no VAT returns had been filed for either company since they were incorporated in 2012.

As a result, the annual tax assessment of each of the companies was “much smaller” than what was actually owed.

It meant that the companies had failed to pay an estimated £1 million in tax over their four-and-a-half years in business.

The investigation concluded in July 2016 with the winding up of both companies. The director pleaded guilty to two counts of being knowingly concerned in the fraudulent evasion of VAT and was sentenced to three years in prison.

The insolvency courts also handed the director a 12-year disqualification order, which bans Mr Seong from becoming involved in the promotion, formation or management of a company.

Commenting on the outcome of the case, David Brooks, Chief Investigator for the Insolvency Service, said: “Lam Chin Seong demonstrated a wilful 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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