County Durham businessmen get six months to pay back £120,000 VAT bill

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BUSINESSMEN who racked up a £250,000 bill with the taxman after failing to pay VAT have been given another six months to pay off their remaining debt.

Judge Christopher Prince warned John Hind and Robert McLean that those who fail to repay their deficit to the public purse should expect to go to prison, as they went before him once again in relation to the HM Revenue and Customs case.

The pair, who still owe £120,000, came close to facing a jail term during the hearing at Durham Crown Court, as prosecutor Ruth Phillips said it was the Crown’s view the “case has gone on for long enough”.

She said: “The defendants have been provided ample opportunity to repay the money.”

However, she added that if the men were given custodial sentences, their company would fold, employees would be out of work and they would not be able to repay the cash, which is why a “sympathetic” approach had been given.

The pair, who have had their sentence deferred for six months twice before after an initial four-month reprieve, have now been given another six months to pay £60,000 off the bill.

The debt, which came to £250,000 including interest, was caused when their company, Atlas Welding and Engineering Supplies, in Houghton Enterprise Centre, Lake Road, did not pay its VAT bill from March 1998 to March 2007.

Previous hearings were told the firm had operated under a de-registered VAT number and the men used the money they did not pay to keep their business going because it struggled when another company, which owned them £72,000, went bust.

Hind, 46, of High Street, Low Pittington, and McLean, 51, of Huxley Drive, Chester-le-Street, each admitted a charge of fraudulent evasion of VAT on the basis it was a case of unlawful borrowing.

Ms Phillips said the pair had paid off £110,000 of the debt and brought a cheque for a further £20,000 to court.

Jonathan Devlin, mitigating for Hind, explained they intended to pay the remaining £120,000 back during the next year.

Paul Currer, for McLean, said they were managing to run the company successfully under “difficult and stringent” economic conditions and intended to keep paying the bill.

The case was adjourned until Friday, April 13, next year.

Twitter: @EchoEastDurham