A Westfield White City shop owner will be spending years behind bars after pleading guilty to fraudulent tax evasion of nearly £1million.
Peter Davis, 58, of Lee, south-east London and owner of Formula 1 Teamwear Ltd, set up shops in shopping centres in Liverpool, Glasgow, Cardiff and Shepherd's Bush, along with two smaller shops in Brighton and a website.
To help keep his businesses going and to fund his lifestyle, he submitted 17 separate fraudulent VAT returns to HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) between 2009 and 2013, and falsely claimed repayments of £961,307.
HMRC investigators found that Davis received subsidies from the shopping centres to fit-out the shops.
However, all of his outlets failed, which often left rent and rates unpaid and some customers of his website without the products they had ordered, leaving them out of pocket or needing to submit claims to their credit card providers.
Davis also ran Salerno’s, an Italian restaurant near Tower Bridge, where he failed to declare around half of his sales, and falsely claimed £58,507 in four VAT claims.
Daren Cooley, assistant director at HMRC's Fraud Investigation Service, said: "Davis lied over and over again to steal taxpayers’ money to help fund his businesses and lifestyle. He foolishly thought he could carry on cheating the public by setting up new businesses built on a house of cards.
“Tax fraud isn’t a victimless crime. Not only is it stealing from UK taxpayers, it takes away money needed for the vital public services we all rely on. Anyone with information about tax fraud should report it to HMRC online or contact our Fraud Hotline on 0800 788 887.”
Davis pleaded guilty to fraudulent evasion of VAT and on Friday (July 20) he was jailed at Southwark Crown Court for four years. He was also disqualified from being a company director for seven years.
On sentencing, His Honour Judge Michael Hopmeier told Davis: “These were serious, sophisticated frauds carried out over a long period of time, by deliberate dishonesty and virtually from the start of trading.
“Offences of this nature - fraud on the revenue - are not victimless. Government and Public Services are funded by tax, there are no other sources of income – this means hospitals, schools, roads and benefits are all paid for by tax.
“Stealing money from public funds means less money for these services.”