London restaurateur held over ‘tax fraud'

30 December 2013 by
London restaurateur held over ‘tax fraud'

Frank Dowling, a restaurateur with three venues in the O2, has been held as part of a tax fraud investigation and his businesses collapsed into administration.

Dowling, who owns Union Square, American Bar & Grill and Inc Club, was arrested after liquidators found documents that appeared to reveal his businesses owed more tax than HMRC knew about, reported the Evening Standard.

Files and computer data that allegedly contained further evidence of potential criminal activity were later found. The investigation is understood to be focused on allegations of £6m of undeclared VAT and PAYE, and the companies are up to a further £9m in debt.

US-born Dowling is believed to have been arrested at his Greenwich home, which is also the company's head office, on 28 November, while associate Audrey McCracken was arrested in Glasgow. An accountant who worked for the company was also held.

One of Dowling's companies, Greenwich Inc Holdings, is believed to own "many millions" of pounds worth of antiques and art, of which administrators are trying to establish the ownership. Artworks seen hanging in a pub owned by the company have apparently disappeared.

"The trigger for the investigation was a creditors meeting he called: the meeting did not happen. All the creditors were there, but Dowling did not attend. Instead, he left the country," a source said.

Main company Greenwich Inc is in administration, along with Greenwich Inc Holdings. Greenwich Inc Trading has been liquidated.

Lawyers for Dowling and McCracken said they denied any wrongdoing and were "co-operating fully" with HMRC. They added: "The investigation, as we understand it, primarily relates to a VAT issue, which is complex as it involves different entities within the business structure. The structure is entirely legitimate."

Union Square and American Bar & Grill will be operated for at least a further four months as administrators look to sell some of the businesses as "a going concern". Inc Club has already shut.

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