Three businessmen who stole £3m in a tax scam involving pubs and restaurants have been jailed for a total of 14 years.
Shahab, Shahin and Hedayat Hashtroudi, who ran pubs and restaurants in Hampshire, Dorset and Surrey under a series of businesses failed to pay VAT and stole income tax and national insurance contributions from their employees for eight years.
In total they set up 11 companies since October 2008, which all failed leaving huge debts. None of the companies lasted longer than 24 months with some trading for less than a year.
Their bookkeeper Tracy Carder enabled the fraud to continue by lying to HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) about the companies' true tax liabilities. Her actions were found to have helped extend the life of some of the companies and allowed for further substantial amounts of VAT, tax and National Insurance to be fraudulently evaded.
The Hashtroudis' firms went under the names of:
- Alcatraz (including Alcatraz Dining Group, Alcatraz Pub Company, Alcatraz Restaurant Company and Alcatraz Wine and Beer Company)
- 8 Rivers (including 8 Rivers Inns, 8 Rivers Restaurants, 8 Rivers Pub)
- Apricot (including Apricot Pub Company and Apricot Restaurant)
- Alcatraz Group Ltd (formerly 8 Rivers Dining)
- Candy Experience Ltd (formerly 8 Rivers Bars)
An investigation was launched into the brothers after Apricot failed in similar circumstances to their previous businesses.
Investigators found that taxpayers' money was being used to maintain the family's assets, as well as paying commercial mortgages. Once the firms had been declared insolvent, they started trading again under a new name leaving hundreds of thousands of pounds of debt to HMRC behind.
After being disqualified as company directors, the brothers then became ‘shadow' directors, pulling the strings behind the scenes. The Hashtroudis and Carder were found guilty on 15 January 2019 of cheating the public revenue of £3m after a seven-week trial at Southampton Crown Court.
Shahab, who was described by Judge Henry as the "orchestrator" of the fraud and "the power behind the throne", was also found guilty of tax fraud with Candy Experience (formerly 8 Rivers Bars).
On 1 February 2019 Shahab was given a six-year jail sentence, Shahin four years and Hedayat also four years. Carder received a two-year jail sentence, suspended for two years, and was ordered to do 300 hours of unpaid work.
The Hashtroudis were also banned from being directors for a total of 28 years.
Richard Wilkinson, assistant director, Fraud Investigation Service, HMRC, said: "The Hashtroudi brothers were serial offenders in setting up businesses and ripping off the British taxpayer, by pocketing the Income Tax and National Insurance contributions employees had paid and also VAT on sales. The money they failed to declare is the equivalent to the starting salaries of 165 nurses for a year."
Pictured: (L-R) Hedayat, Shahab and Shanin HashtroudiGet The Caterer every week on your smartphone, tablet, or even in good old-fashioned hard copy (or all three!).