AN award-winning restaurateur has been sentenced to 21 months in prison for dodging more than £86,000 in tax.
Hermann Rodrigues, 55, from Kilmaurs Terrace, Prestonfield, repeatedly changed the names of his businesses to evade paying VAT at two curry houses.
The former owner of Suruchi, Nicolson Street and Suruchi Too, Constitution Street, was caught in an HM Revenue and Customs investigation.
“Rodrigues attempted to conceal his criminal activity, which gave him a dishonest advantage over other Edinburgh restaurants,” said an HMRC spokeswoman.
“He charged his customers VAT but then stole that money, at the detriment of public services, to fund his own lifestyle.”
Rodrigues was held in December 2011 on suspicion of VAT evasion. He recently pleaded guilty to being knowingly concerned in the fraudulent evasion of VAT and was sentenced on Friday.
He changed the names of the controlling companies incorporating the restaurants multiple times and used the identity of others to conceal his involvement. Both restaurants charged their customers VAT on meals, but he failed to pass this on to HMRC evading £86,543 in VAT payments from January 2009 to December 2011.
The HMRC spokeswoman confirmed action is now under way to recover the money evaded in tax.
It marks a dramatic fall from grace for Rodrigues – after winning a trade award and getting involved in community projects.
Back in 2012, Suruchi was named Restaurant of the Year in the south-east region at the at the Scottish Curry Awards.
The restaurant scooped the gong at a glitzy ceremony in Glasgow – drawing plaudits from industry insiders. More than 600 guests attended the event, which was hosted by TV presenter Sharon Prasad, and featured entertainment from cheerleaders the Scottish Rockettes.
And in 2014, Suruchi sponsored Leith Academy’s Market Place, laying on food in the canteen for students and staff.
Rodrigues’ case was referred to HMRC criminal investigators by VAT compliance officers who carry out checks into company trading and financial activity.
Investigators suspicions were raised after realising the VAT they were entitled to from the businesses was going unpaid.
Both Suruchi and Suruchi Too have now closed.
“We are determined to level the playing field for all legitimate businesses,” said the HMRC spokeswoman.
Alex Wild, research director of the TaxPayers Alliance welcomed Rodrigues’ conviction.
“This was a clear cut case of tax evasion and it’s absolutely right that Mr Rodrigues is heading to prison for his crimes,” said Mr Wild.