Press release

Club and restaurant operators barred as Insolvency Service serves up 18 years of disqualification

Following an investigation by the Insolvency Service, Nicholas Pratt and Luke Parker, the directors of Ashperry Ltd and Carbris Leisure Ltd, have been disqualified for 9 years each. Mr Pratt and Mr Parker caused or allowed Ashperry and Carbris to misuse the Annual Accounting Scheme for VAT and also caused the companies to trade to the detriment of HMRC.

Mr Pratt has given a disqualification undertaking to the Secretary Of State which runs from 4 June 2015 until 3 June 2024.

Mr Parker has given an undertaking to the Secretary Of State which runs from 13 July 2015 until 12 July 2024.

The investigation also found that:

  • The directors took advantage of a scheme designed for smaller businesses in order to accrue large VAT debts undetected by HMRC. In the case of Carbris, HMRC had been advised that the expected turnover would be £78,000 and HMRC had estimated the annual VAT at £10,000
  • The directors failed to tell HMRC that the turnover had exceeded this level within a week of trading and after nine months of trading the turnover was over £5.4m, leading to a VAT liability of £392,775

Commenting on the disqualification, Mark Bruce, a Chief Investigator for The Insolvency Service said:

Directly as a result of the directors actions, money which had been charged to customers or deducted from employees totalling over £1.25million, which should have been paid to HMRC, was unfairly kept by the company to finance its trading.

Limited liability protection is a privilege to ensure businesses trade in an open and fair market. Such protection is only available to those who comply with their obligations. If those obligations are ignored, that protection will be withdrawn.

Notes to editors

Ashperry Ltd (CRO No. 07254177) was incorporated on 14 May 2010. Ashperry Ltd went into liquidation on 11 October 2012. Mr Parker was a director of Ashperry Ltd from 12 September 2011 until the liquidation. Mr Pratt was a director of Ashperry Ltd from 21 May 2010 until the liquidation.

Carbris Leisure Ltd (CRO No. 05803713) was incorporated on 3 May 2006 although it did not start trading until 2012. Carbris Leisure Ltd went into administration on 12 August 2013. Mr Parker was a director of Carbris Leisure Ltd from 20 February 2012 until the administration. Mr Pratt was a director of Carbris Leisure Ltd from 20 February 2012 until the administration.

Ashperry Ltd and Carbris Leisure Ltd both operated Le Monde Restaurant, Soda Bar, Soda Lounge and Bunker Nightclub from premises St Mary Street and Mill Lane, Cardiff.

Ashperry Ltd and Carbris leisure Ltd both operated Mbargo, Mbargo Lounge and Bunker Nightclub from premises in Clifton Triangle, Bristol.

Nicholas Pratt’s date of birth is 26 July 1981 and he resides in Bristol.

Luke Parker’s date of birth is 1 July 1983 and he resides in Bristol.

Usually, VAT-registered businesses submit their VAT Returns and payments to HM Revenue and Customs 4 times a year. With the Annual Accounting Scheme you:

  • make advance VAT payments towards your VAT bill - based on your last return (or estimated if you’re new to VAT)
  • submit 1 VAT Return a year
  • Directors are required to inform HMRC if their turnover is 10% higher than expected and if the turnover exceeds £1.6million

A disqualification order has the effect that without specific permission of a court, a person with a disqualification cannot:

  • act as a director of a company
  • take part, directly or indirectly, in the promotion, formation or management of a company or limited liability partnership
  • be a receiver of a company’s property

In addition that person cannot act as an insolvency practitioner and there are many other restrictions are placed on disqualified directors by other regulations.

Disqualification undertakings are the administrative equivalent of a disqualification order but do not involve court proceedings. Further information on director disqualifications and restrictions is available.

The Insolvency Service administers the insolvency regime, investigating all compulsory liquidations and individual insolvencies (bankruptcies) through the Official Receiver to establish why they became insolvent. It may also use powers under the Companies Act 1985 to conduct confidential fact-finding investigations into the activities of live limited companies in the UK. In addition, the agency authorises and regulates the insolvency profession, deals with disqualification of directors in corporate failures, assesses and pays statutory entitlement to redundancy payments when an employer cannot or will not pay employees, provides banking and investment services for bankruptcy and liquidation estate funds and advises ministers and other government departments on insolvency law and practice. Further information about the work of the Insolvency Service, and how to complain about financial misconduct, is available.