Newspaper article Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)

I Had No Idea Pub Business Was a Fraud; Accountant Denies Putting in False Returns to Avoid Paying Tax

Newspaper article Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)

I Had No Idea Pub Business Was a Fraud; Accountant Denies Putting in False Returns to Avoid Paying Tax

Article excerpt

Byline: ROB KENNEDY

AN ACCOUNTANT accused of helping carry out a huge tax evasion scam was 'an innocent man swimming with the sharks', a court heard.

Mehmood Mohammed is alleged to have played a part in a fraud carried out by John Henry Sayers, which deprived the taxman of more than pounds 200,000.

The money man admitted negligence and incompetence with regard to his bookkeeping, but denied any criminality.

Mohammed said he had known Sayers since they were children, as the hardman and his family used to come into a shop in the West End of Newcastle owned by his relatives and Mohammed used to work there as a youngster But he said he was not close to Sayers and was unaware he had anything to do with a pub company for which Mohammed did the accounts.

Mohammed said he only dealt with frontman Alan Coe, who he believed was running Neptune Inns and Pubs 4 Us on his own.

He told Newcastle Crown Court: "Until the police became involved in this I had no inkling John Henry Sayers was involved.

"In all of this period I seen him in my office probably two or three times.

"On one occasion he greeted me with an Islamic greeting, to say hello. He came in for maybe 10 minutes, I did not attach any significance."

Mohammed said over the years he saw Sayers now and again and said while banking some money Sayers had cracked a joke with him.

Mohammed said: "He was standing against some railings outside the bank when I went in.

"He shouted 'Be careful with that bag you are carrying. It will be full of money'. He was trying to make a funny remark."

Another time he said Sayers had given him some "inside information" of a personal nature about some relatives.

It is claimed Mohammed, a married father of three, fiddled the books to help Sayers avoid VAT and corporation tax.

But while the accountant now accepts a fraud was carried out by Sayers and Coe, he maintains he was not part of it.

Eric Elliott QC, for Mohammed, told jurors: "The defendant, with the benefit of hindsight and now knowing what he does about this case, fully accepts there was a fraud. …

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