Former owner of Water Margin in Gunwharf Quays jailed for £1m tax fraud is banned from running companies for 12 years

THE former director of a restaurant has been jailed for a £1m tax fraud and banned from running companies for 12 years.

Thursday, 25th July 2019, 11:14 am
Updated Thursday, 25th July 2019, 12:58 pm
Picture: Allan Hutchings (121780-645)

Former Water Margin director Lam Chin Seong has been hit with the ban by HM Revenue and Customs after being sent to prison in December. 

He was sentenced to three years behind bars after admitting two counts of being knowingly concerned in fraudulent evasion of VAT. 

It came after an investigation found the 61-year-old from Barnet, who was the sole director of Novari Limited and Novari (at the O2) Limited, had falsely registered his businesses with HMRC. 

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Picture: Allan Hutchings (121780-645)

Chin Seong told HMRC his two Water Margin venues in Gunwharf Quays at Portsmouth and Greenwich, London, were arts-based firms with maximum turnovers of £80,000. 

But the probe found both were making more than £1m – meaning they were significantly below the tax brackets they should have been. 

Chin Seong then failed to file VAT returns for either company, which led HMRC to do tax assessments themselves based on the false turnover. 

As a result these were for far smaller amounts than the companies owed – sometimes only for hundreds of pounds. 

In 2017 The News was told Water Margin was going to close because of expensive rent and business rates

But Chin Seong actually put it into liquidation after HMRC uncovered his fraud, which equalled more than £1m over four-and-a-half years. 

HMRC worked with the Insolvency Service to secure his 12-year disqualification, which has been announced today. 

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.’ 

Water Margin at Gunwharf Quays was left extensively damaged in 2012 after a major fire that took more than 30 firefighters to put out. 

The unit is now occupied by popular chain Cosy Club, which opened in March.