Jailed: Telford Thai restaurant boss had thousands stashed under his bed in £272,000 fraud
A pub and Thai restaurant boss who cheated the taxman out of more than £272,000 has been jailed.
Simon Turner, the former owner of The Foresters Arms in Broseley, was found to have siphoned off £43,000 into personal accounts and had £8,900 stashed under his bed when investigators attended.
After one occasion when HMRC officers went to the pub to quiz staff, Turner phoned the authority and accused them of “intimidation”, Shrewsbury Crown Court was told.
Andrew Wilkin, mitigating, said Turner’s focus had been on serving his customers and supporting his son’s motor racing career. But Judge Michael Fowler said the fact Turner had carried out the fraud over five years, and set up multiple companies, showed he was not someone who had simply “taken his eye off the ball”.
The court heard that Turner bought the pub with his wife in 2007 and turned it into a Thai restaurant, re-naming it The King and Thai. Over the course of his ownership, Turner set up six different companies linked to the venue to try and evade corporation tax and VAT liabilities. He failed to pay more than £174,000 in VAT and more than £98,000 in corporation tax.
He was first investigated in May 2015, when HMRC officers attended to ask why he had not been paying VAT. He told them he had only been trading since March that year and did not believe his takings had been enough for him to be liable to pay.
The following summer, HMRC carried out three test purchases before following them up with a visit. There were no records of their purchases in the books.
After the visit, Turner called HMRC. “He said they (Turner and his wife) were working 18 hours a day to try and keep the business afloat, and that he felt the visit had been ‘intimidation’,” said Michael Aspinall, prosecuting.
The investigation continued and Turner was arrested in June 2017. A property search found thousands of pounds stashed under his bed. Turner claimed the money was from inheritance and the sale of a vehicle, and that his wife must have put it there. It was also found that Turner had diverted tens of thousands of pounds into personal accounts from cash sales at the venue.
Turner, of Fountain Drive, St Georges, Telford, pleaded guilty to being knowingly concerned in the fraudulent evasion of VAT, cheating the public revenue contrary to common law and concealing, disguising, converting, transferring and removing criminal property.
Mr Wilkins said Turner “accepts there has been a significant loss to the taxpayer”, but said he did not have an “expensive lifestyle” as a result of the fraud.
“He wasn’t simply lining his own pockets, going on expensive holidays and buying jewellery, as you sometimes see in these cases,” added Mr Wilkins.
Judge Fowler jailed him for two-and-a-half years, and told him: “In most people’s worlds it is a vast sum of money. An immediate custodial sentence is the only sentence that can properly meet this offending.”
Turner was also banned from being a company director for eight years. HMRC is expected to conduct civil proceedings against Turner try and recoup cash he failed to pay.
The Forester's Arms is now under new ownership, trading as a pub again. It relaunched in July 2021, with a £100,000 revamp. Wolves legend Steve Bull attended the official reopening.