TWO businessmen who failed to pay VAT from the inception of their company have repaid the full amount, plus interest, totalling £260,000.
Robert McLean and John Hind were yesterday (Thursday October 24) given suspended prison sentences, after a judge noted the original prosecution description of the crime as, “a deliberate and planned fraud, using a cloned VAT number.”
It follows an investigation by revenue officials in 2007 into their company, Atlas Welding and Engineering Supplies, set up in Lake Road, Houghton-le-Spring in 1998, after it was discovered it was using a de-registered VAT number.
They have both since admitted fraudulent evasion of VAT, conceding they were aware of the mounting liability, which they intended to address.
Judge Christopher Prince deferred sentence to give them the chance to pay off the outstanding sum.
They have returned to court at regular intervals since, to ensure they were meeting instalments as part of a repayment plan.
McLean, 53, of Huxley Drive, Chester-le-Street, and 48-year-old Hind, of High Street, Low Pittington, near Durham, were back before the court today (October 24), when their barrister, Tony Davis, said: “Four years have elapsed since their pleas were entered and all of the money, plus interest, has been paid back, a sum of £260,000.
“They intended paying this money, but then the recession hit and things became very difficult.
“But they have adhered to the court’s timetable and carried on under the directions given by your honour.”
Judge Christopher Prince said: “I note the prosecution described it as, ‘a deliberate and planned fraud, using a cloned VAT number’.
“The offence does cross the custody threshold, but the mitigating factor is that they have, now, paid the money.”
Both McLean and Hind were given eight month prison sentences, suspended for eight months, and each was ordered to pay £300 costs.