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Sandgate chip shop saved after boss Russell Fox cheats £200k in taxes

Fish and chip shop owner Russell Fox, 43, has been spared an immediate jail sentence after faking VAT returns
Fish and chip shop owner Russell Fox, 43, has been spared an immediate jail sentence after faking VAT returns

Tax investigators smelled something fishy when they decided to probe the accounts of a Sandgate chippy.

They discovered boss Russell Fox, 43, wasn't just salting the chips - he was doing the same to his books.

Over a six-year period, he cheated the revenue out of £200,000 by faking VAT returns and not paying the correct income tax or national insurance payments for his business, The Little Fish Shop.

But Fox, pictured left and of Rochester Road, Aylesford, escaped going straight to prison – because 16 people would lose their jobs.

Family and friends of the cheating chippy owner have also stumped up the £200,000, which is now to be handed over to Revenue and Customs officers within a couple of weeks.

Carys Owen, prosecuting, told Canterbury Crown Court the fish and chip shop was owned by Fox and his father Michael – with Russell Fox "the nominated partner".

"They jointly ran the fish and chip shop and restaurant, employing numerous people of a weekly basis," she said.

"But between 2005 and 2011, Russell failed to declare the business' true income, which resulted in a loss of income tax of £108,446. There was also £17,452 losses in payments of National Insurance contributions together with a failure to pay £68,800 in VAT."

She said Revenue and Customs officials began probing the shop accounts in 2010 – and immediately discovered a £20,000 shortfall in the VAT returns.

Russell Fox ran The Little Fish Shop in Sandgate
Russell Fox ran The Little Fish Shop in Sandgate

Russell Fox ran The Little Fish Shop in Sandgate

"In the ensuing enquiry, the business records were provided but were not complete. Russell kept the business records and it would appear that Michael had retired from the business and played a lesser role in the day-to-day management of it.

"Till rolls were missing and it was concluded that they were either deliberately withheld or had been deliberately destroyed to prevent HMRC ascertaining a true understanding of the company's turnover.

"It is the prosecution case that Russell Fox deliberately altered figures to ensure that the business paid less income tax," she added.

Richard Fisher, defending, said Fox - who admitted two charges of cheating the revenue - had got himself into a spiral of debt and had "robbed Peter to pay Paul".

"He kept two account books, one accurate and one false," he added.

Mr Fisher said Fox and his father had worked together in a garage business until he was seriously injured in an accident. He then used the compensation he received to invest in a number of businesses "some of which have not been a success".

Canterbury Crown Court
Canterbury Crown Court

Russell Fox was sentenced at Canterbury Crown Court

But he added: "He is still held in high regard by others, who regard him as a strong family man."

Judge Nigel Van Der Bijl said the offences deserved a prison sentence, adding: "The question is can I suspended the sentence? The figures involved would indicate no, but if you go straight to prison then 16 people would be made redundant and would have to find jobs elsewhere."

He said the 12-month jail term would be suspended for two years and ordered him to do 250 hours of unpaid work for the community.

Fox will also be electronically tagged for three months – meaning he would be under house arrest between 9pm and 6am.

The judge also ruled if the money – which was said to be held by his lawyers in a client's account – was not paid to HMRC, he would face a three-year jail sentence.

The prosecution against Michael Fox was dropped at an earlier hearing. The cheating charges, which he denied, have been left on the file.

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