Celebrity chef Paul Heathcote was fined £3,000 and ordered to pay more than £7,000 in compensation when he appeared at Preston Magistrates Court accused of ignoring a trading ban.
The 43-year-old Michelin star restaurant owner faced 30 charges under the VAT Act brought by HM Revenue and Customs.
The court heard Heathcote came to the attention of HMRC when his previous company, The Longridge Restaurant, de-registered for VAT in 2011 owing almost £100,000 in unpaid taxes. On the same day he registered two new companies, PH Restaurants (Longridge) Ltd and PH Restaurants (Preston) Ltd.
HMRC officers told him that because the new companies posed a risk, he should pay a VAT security of £72,190 up front before he was allowed to trade. But, despite written notices telling him the terms of the security, both restaurants continued to trade for more than three months after the ban was imposed, providing goods and services subject to VAT.
Colin Spinks, Assistant Director, Criminal Investigation, at HMRC, said: “Mr Heathcote was given numerous opportunities to continue trading legitimately, but he chose to flout the law. We will take action to ensure the correct tax is paid and investigate those who are subject to a trading ban because they owe VAT.”
The court was told Heathcote, of Higher Road, Preston, who was awarded the MBE in 2009 for services to catering, had subsequently paid the £25,018 security required for the Preston restaurant.
Heathcote founded his first restaurant in Longridge in 1990 at the age of 29. He became a regular on television and scooped Michelin Stars, Catey Awards and the Egon Ronay Chef of the Year award. He is the figure behind Heathcotes Brasserie and The Olive Press in Preston.