Sleaford

Fish and chip shop owner fled country after caught operating tax scam

A fish and chip shop owner who fled the country after he was caught operating a tax scam has been jailed for 16 months at Lincoln Crown Court.

Antonio De Sousa, who ran Scoffers in Sleaford, dodged paying £44,500 in VAT by under declaring the takings from his business.

He produced false figures for his accountant to submit his quarterly VAT returns over a 15 month period.

But he was caught out in December 2014 when HMRC officers visited his premises and carried out an investigation.

They discovered notebooks detailing the daily takings. The figures were different to those submitted in the VAT returns which resulted in De Sousa being prosecuted.

But before he appeared in court he fled to Madeira from where he was extradited earlier this year.

De Sousa, 39, formerly of North Rauceby, admitted a charge of being involved in the fraudulent evasion of £44,512 worth of VAT.

The court was told that he has repaid the money but still owes £600 in interest payments which he has also arranged to be paid.

Michael Ivers QC, in mitigation, said that De Sousa closed down the business shortly after the visit from the tax authorities.

He said: “There was no attempt to keep the business going. The keys were given back to the landlord as it was not making very much money.”

Mr Iverson said that De Sousa later went to Madeira to visit his sick father and remained there until extradition proceedings took place.

“There was an element of him burying his head in the sand.

“He was not living the high life while the fraud was going on.

“He is a man of good character. He is a hard-working man. There is no chance of him committing any offences again.”

Judge Simon Hirst, passing sentence, rejected a plea that the prison sentence should be suspended and told De Sousa: “You deliberately suppressed the takings to a significant extent.

“This was over a 15 month period. You instructed a new accountant so that you were able to carry out this fraud. You then provided false documents to your accountant.”