Following Lutfur’s recent disappointment at the PCC, there is more bad news for Tower Hamlets’ extremist-linked mayor. His cabinet member for the environment, Cllr Shahed Ali, has been running a company that owes the taxman a great deal of money.
Companies House records show that Cllr Ali was company secretary and a director of a firm called Last Viceroy of British India Ltd. The company, which was based at the same address as a restaurant of the same name in Frinton-on-Sea, Essex, never filed any accounts. But on 7 October 2009 its directors placed it in voluntary liquidation and in August 2010 they dissolved it.
Almost the sole creditors were HM Revenue and Customs. The insolvency documents show that they are owed £16,000 in unpaid VAT and £9,000 in unpaid income tax and national insurance. There are, alas, no means to pay this bill: the company was wound up without assets of any kind. Happily, however, the restaurant appears to have carried on trading very much as normal!
Well, almost as normal. In December 2009, there was a slight interruption in service when the authorities raided the premises, arresting three of the staff who turned out to be illegal immigrants. One was found hiding on the roof. They probably didn’t pay all that much tax either.
The restaurant was still in business as of this Saturday, according to a review posted on the Qype website. It is now run by a company called Dinebest – which, surely by complete coincidence, popped up at just about the same time that the Last Viceroy of India company was placed into voluntary liquidation. Dinebest’s sole director is another Mr Ali, Anhar. Any relation of Shahed, I wonder? Interestingly, the contact for the restuarant’s management on Qype is still given as “Shaheduk.” Maybe Shahed/Anhar just forgot to change it.
Oh yes, I forgot to mention: Land Registry records show that Shahed Ali is still the owner of the restaurant, and indeed the property next door too. So he probably does have some assets which could be used to pay that tax bill, after all!
When I called Cllr Ali, he at first claimed not to have heard of Last Viceroy of British India. “Are you sure you’ve got the right information?” he asked. I pointed out that Last Viceroy is listed in his Companies House entry along with a number of companies which he declares in his register of interests at the Town Hall. I could also have pointed out that he owns the restaurant, and that the company secretary’s mobile phone number in Last Viceroy’s company records is the same as his.
Cllr Ali’s memory then staged a rapid recovery. He admitted that he had been secretary of the company. He insisted, however, that its liquidation had most definitely not been a ruse to avoid paying tax. So would he, I asked, now be paying the Revenue the tax owed? “The company is liquidated, that’s the end of the story,” he said.
Cllr Ali currently makes quite a lot of money from the taxpayer – he is paid £22,723 in “special responsibility allowances.” And he spends even more taxpayers’ money – his part of the council has a budget of at least £70 million. So I decided to ask the question again. Would he be paying the tax that is owed to the Revenue? “The company is liquidated, that’s the end of the story,” he repeated.
I think that’s a no, don’t you?
PS Cllr Ali is of course not the first of Lutfur’s councillors or supporters to attract controversy. There’s Shiraj Haque, whose restaurants were raided by the police for counterfeiting; Shelina Akhtar, shortly to stand trial for fraud; Alibor Choudhury, who has seen the inside of a courtroom more than once (and is now, incredibly, in charge of the council’s budget); and not forgetting Shah Yousouf, who will stand trial in April for alleged election crimes.
PPS Lutfur denies any links to extremism.