A Chinese restaurant owner has been jailed for three years after stealing £1m in tax by claiming his businesses made pottery and had a tiny turnover.
Chin Seong Lam, 60, opened two sites, one in the O2 Arena in North Greenwich and another at Gun Wharf Quays shopping centre in Portsmouth, Hampshire.
At his London site, the Water Margin, he registered for VAT as a business for "manufacturing pottery with an estimated yearly turnover of £10,000". His actual turnover stood at £5.1m. In his Portsmouth site of the same name, he claimed the business was an art illustration company which also had a turnover of £10,000. The real figure between 2013 and 2016 stood at £5.3m.
From December 2014 to November 2016, Lam declared £2,100 in self-assessment income despite being the director of both sites.
Lam pleaded guilty to VAT fraud and money laundering at Harrow Crown Court and was sentenced to three years in prison on 20 December. Confiscation proceedings to recover assets will now begin.
Richard Wilkinson, assistant director, Fraud Investigation Service, HMRC, said: "Lam made millions and paid very little tax, rubbing law-abiding taxpayers' noses in it. The cash he pocketed was the equivalent to the starting salary of 130 new nurses in London for an entire year.
"We will continue to pursue criminals who think it is acceptable to charge their customers VAT and pocket the money for their own benefit. Anyone with information about tax fraud should report it to HMRC online or contact our Fraud Hotline on 0800 788 887."