The accountant of a London cafe has admitted falsely claiming to The Pensions Regulator (TPR) that staff had been enrolled into a pension scheme.
TPR launched an investigation into Gran Caffe Londra, in Knightsbridge, London, run by Primadell Ltd, after the company missed its deadline to confirm it had automatically enrolled staff into a pension in October 2015.
When TPR arranged an inspection of the firm’s accountant Hashmukh Shah, 63, he falsely declared that the company had met its duties.
When later interviewed by TPR, Mr 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.
Mr Shah’s false declaration paused TPR’s investigations for more than a year, during which time the cafe’s staff continued to be denied the pension contributions that they were entitled to.
At Brighton Magistrates Court yesterday Mr Shah admitted “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: “It is totally unacceptable for an accountant or any other professional to file false documents to purposely avoid meeting an employer’s automatic enrolment pension duties.
“There is no legitimate excuse for such action, which denies staff the savings they deserve for their retirement.
“If a professional files false documents we will catch up with them and, like in this case, take action against them.
“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 was adjourned until September 5 for sentencing at Brighton Magistrates’ Court, where the charge carries the maximum penalty of an unlimited fine.
Primadell eventually became compliant in March 2018 and the company has backdated pension contributions for its staff.