David Ying Chung Lai, 52, owned Newcastle city centre restaurants Mangos, on Stowell Street, and Aura, in City Quadrant, and was jailed for 20 months after HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) discovered he forged invoices to fraudulently reclaim VAT.
Lai was also ordered to repay £65, 014 but failed to do so. He was sent back to jail for another 20 months and he still owes the money.
Diccon Wood, Assistant Director, Fraud Investigation Service, HMRC, said:
“It is important that criminals like Lai don’t benefit from their crimes. That is why HMRC will always look to reclaim their criminal profits. Lai stole money which should have been used to fund our public services and failed to repay it when he was told to do so. Now he is paying the price by having to spend another 20 months in jail.
“But it doesn’t end there; this isn’t pay up or go to prison instead. Lai still owes the money and until he pays it the amount will increase as daily interest is added.
“We will continue to pursue criminals like Lai who think stealing from taxpayers is acceptable. If you know of anyone committing VAT fraud you can report them by calling our Fraud Hotline on 0800 788 887.”
Lai, of Parish Court, Newcastle upon Tyne, told HMRC he spent more than £700,000 on renovations to his Newcastle restaurants. But an investigation revealed this was a lie and he had used false documents in his attempt to claim £107,775 in VAT refunds. £54,775 was paid while the rest was withheld.
During a routine visit, a HMRC compliance officer spotted spelling mistakes on invoices that looked unprofessional and some were suspiciously similar to each other. A £45,000 invoice misspelt the company’s address while a forged letterhead had ‘Limtied’ instead of ‘Limited’.
Lai was originally jailed in September 2015 and then handed a confiscation order for £65,014 at Newcastle Crown Court in January this year. He was told to repay the money within three months.
He was sentenced to another 20 months in prison at Leeds Magistrates’ Court on 22 November 2017 after he failed to fulfil the requirements of the confiscation order.
His debt remains and increases by £14.24 a day until paid. The amount currently stands at more than £68,000.