Accountant admits to providing false information to The Pensions Regulator
20 August 2018
An accountant who was being prosecuted for deliberately providing false information to The Pensions Regulator (TPR) has admitted to declaring that a company had met its auto-enrolment duties when he knew it had not.
TPR launched an investigation into Gran Caffe Londra in Knightsbridge, run by Primadell Ltd, after the company missed its deadline to automatically enrol staff into a pension in October 2015.
When TPR arranged an inspection of the business, accountant Hashmukh Shah, 63, falsely declared that the company had met its duties.
When later interviewed by TPR, Shah, of Richmond, Surrey, admitted purposely misleading the regulator. This prevented an inspection of the business which would have uncovered the employer’s failure to automatically enrol its staff.
Shah’s false declaration paused TPR’s investigations for more than a year, during which time staff continued to be denied the pension contributions that they were entitled to.
At Brighton Magistrates Court on Wednesday 15 August, Shah admitted to knowingly or recklessly providing false or misleading information to TPR. Deliberately providing false information to TPR about compliance with automatic enrolment duties is an offence under section 80 of the Pensions Act 2004.
TPR’s director of automatic enrolment, Darren Ryder, said:
“…This prosecution sends a strong message to accountants and advisers tasked with completing an employers’ automatic enrolment duties – if you provide us with false or misleading information we will take legal action which may leave you with a criminal conviction. We will also ensure backdated contributions are paid to staff.”
It is the first time that TPR has prosecuted a third party, working on behalf of an employer, for this offence.
The case has been adjourned until 5 September for sentencing at Brighton Magistrates Court, where the charge carries the maximum penalty of an unlimited fine.
Gran Caffe Londra eventually became compliant in March 2018 and the company has backdated pension contributions for its staff.