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Mr Gulzar makes a point on the occasion of the Queue protest, flanked by MP Amber Rudd and right-hand man, or in this case left-hand man, Brett Maclean.

Flanked by MP Amber Rudd and right-hand man Lord Brett Maclean, Mr Gulzar makes a point on the occasion of the Queue protest.

Hastings pier owner fined for tax offences in Eastbourne

Sheikh Abid Gulzar, the owner of Hastings and Eastbourne piers, has been fined for tax offences deriving from the non payment of Paye and national insurance contributions in connection with his business interests in Eastbourne. Back in Hastings he faces proceedings brought by former pier employees, and has already lost one such case. Nick Terdre reports, photos by Cliff van Coevorden.

Sheikh Abid Gulzar and two of his companies – Mansion Lions Hotel Ltd and Albany Lions Hotel Ltd – were fined a total of £16,000 plus costs at Hastings Magistrates Court on 27 February in a prosecution brought by HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) due to his failure to pay two tax security bonds to the value of £61,873. Payment of a further £595 in victim surcharges and costs was also imposed. Mr Gulzar admitted the offences.

Mr Gulzar is sole director and shareholder of the two companies.

The security bonds – in effect a deposit HMRC can require to be paid when it considers there is a serious risk future tax liabilities will not be met – were imposed by the agency in March 2017 following Mr Gulzar’s failure to pay the Pay As You Earn (Paye) tax and National Insurance contributions (NICs).

“HMRC made numerous attempts to engage with Gulzar, who was trading illegally as he failed to pay the security bonds and then tried to thwart the prosecution,” said Richard Wilkinson, HMRC’s assistant director, Fraud Investigation Service. “It’s only right that we tackle those businesses who fail to play by the rules.”

Not for third parties

“I personally believe the issue between Mr Gulzar and HMRC is an issue for them only and not really for third parties to comment on,” Lord Brett Maclean, a close colleague of the pier owner, told HOT.

“However, I do feel it is important to remember that the monies requested by HMRC represent a security bond for future employee tax and NI contributions and not past contributions.”

Mr Wilkinson’s mention of “thwart[ing] the prosecution” is a reference to the decision given when Mr Gulzar requested permission to appeal against the finding of a previous appeal in which a tax tribunal upheld HMRC’s notice requiring the payment of security bonds.

gulzar face 350In refusing his request, which arrived after the deadline, the judge stated, “… it is clear to me that the appellant had decided to apply for permission to appeal some time previously but had made a conscious decision to do so on the last permitted date, presumably in order to delay for as long as possible the process for requiring security. I do not regard this as a reasonable explanation since it appears to me to be an abuse of process.”

Arrears close to £300,000

At one point Mr Gulzar’s total tax arrears amounted to £292,870, including debt relating to Eastbourne pier.

Details about the extent of Mr Gulzar’s unpaid taxes was made public in the judgement of the previous appeal. This showed that in March 2017, at the time HMRC issued its notice of requirement for security bonds to be paid:

  • Albany Lions Hotel owed £47,626 Paye and NICs, as well as having a VAT liability of £16,582;
  • Lions Hotels had become insolvent owing Paye and NICs debt of £260,013;
  • Boship Lions Hotel owed £79,825 Paye and NICs;
  • Lions Cubs Nursery owed £16,534 in Paye and NICs;
  • Lions Pier Ltd owed £46,565;
  • Chatsworth Hotels had become insolvent with a Paye debt of £39,217;
  • Lions Group Shop, in which Mr Gulzar was a partner, owed VAT of £135,773.

It also noted that when HMRC sought clarification of why Mr Gulzar had requested a review of the decision to issue the security bonds, he replied that he had problems in his previous businesses due to issues with his bank and that although there had been problems in the past, all the debts had eventually been paid.

“The debts had not in fact been paid at that time, although some payments had been made,” the judge noted.

Estimates of the number who joined the Queue protest ranged from 150 to 250.

Estimates of the number who joined the Queue protest ranged from 150 to 250.

Issued in July 2018, shortly after the sale of Hastings pier to Mr Gulzar by the administrators, the judgement stated that the total arrears on Mr Gulzar’s personal businesses amounted to £292,870. It noted his claim that £215,773 had already been paid, but pointed out that two of his companies, Lions Hotels and Chatsworth Hotels, had become insolvent owing £260,013 and £39,217 respectively to HMRC. In the case of bankruptcy such debts have to be written off.

Back in Hastings

In Hastings, where the pier has been closed since December, there are currently understood to be no employees. Of those whom Mr Gulzar inherited on acquiring the pier in June 2018, all of whom subsequently left, several have brought proceedings against the owner on grounds of non payment of wages and health and safety issues. Also pending is a case of constructive dismissal brought by the former pier engineers Peter Wheeler and a colleague.

In one case an employment tribunal has ordered Mr Gulzar to pay a sum of around £3,000 in unpaid wages.

The lengthy closure of the pier, which had not happened under the previous owner, Hastings Pier Charity, has dismayed the local community. In January a crowd estimated at up to 250 attended a good-natured demonstration which formed an orderly queue and walked along the sea front from Warrior Square to the pier to call for it to be reopened.

As the throng reached the pier, Mr Gulzar, accompanied by local MP Amber Rudd and Lord Maclean, appeared from across the road to speak to the media.

It is still the intention to reopen the pier shortly, according to Lord Maclean. “Currently, the pier remains on schedule to reopen this month albeit any future adverse weather conditions that may hamper on-going works. But at present we remain on schedule.”

With regard to future Paye and NI payments, he said, “Rest assured this issue will not be repeated for Hastings Pier employees.”

Samba band Sambalanco led the march from Warrior Square to the pier.

Samba band Sambalanço led the march from Warrior Square to the pier.

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Posted 17:39 Sunday, Mar 10, 2019 In: Grassroots


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  1. Ms.Doubtfire

    This week in The Guardian – an indepth article on Hastings pier. Would be a good idea for our local papers to pick up on this because it reveals issues which few of us were aware of. An absolutely shocking affair. We lost our pier without good reason.

    Comment by Ms.Doubtfire — Monday, Mar 25, 2019 @ 08:16

  2. David Stevenson

    Agreed Ms Doubtfire, “…….. And how on earth did the Administrators allow someone with what appears to be a less than healthy financial situation purchase OUR pier?”. Surely there is a law which requires the Administrators to transfer ownership to an organisation which is able and willing to at least pay the bills, even if they can’t make a profit in the short term.

    Comment by David Stevenson — Tuesday, Mar 12, 2019 @ 19:40

  3. Bolshie

    On reading Nick’s interesting article about this “Pier Mogul,” and the companies listed here, I found that Mansion Lions, Albany Lions, Boship Lions and Lions Pier have “Accounts Overdue” posted by Companies House. And the Lions Club Nursery has overdue accounts and also the annual Confirmation Statement not filed.
    When you see this information posted on official records you have to wonder what is going on here and what kind of Organisation & Management set up he is operating. Two other companies are in Administration. HMRC on his back. Better get those employment lawsuits filed rapidly…….cos I have a feeling “There Could be Trouble Ahead…….Let’s face the music and Dance.”

    Comment by Bolshie — Tuesday, Mar 12, 2019 @ 12:15

  4. Ms.Doubtfire

    And to think the planning committee gave approval to everything this man asked for in his planning application – what is going on here? Surely the omission to give a P45 is an offence?

    Comment by Ms.Doubtfire — Monday, Mar 11, 2019 @ 16:42

  5. Ms.Doubtfire

    Out of the frying pan into the fire – this seems to be the case of our beloved pier…not a good feeling at all. What happens if the new owner is unable to secure adequate finances for insurances, maintenance and staff costs?
    And how on earth did the Administrators allow someone with what appears to be a less than healthy financial situation purchase OUR pier?

    Comment by Ms.Doubtfire — Monday, Mar 11, 2019 @ 08:35

  6. Emily Johns

    My son has not received a P45 and so he is technically still employed by the pier owner, meaning that although his has been locked out and receives no communication from his employer he will be owed a year’s holiday pay as of 31 March.

    Comment by Emily Johns — Sunday, Mar 10, 2019 @ 23:44

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