Tuesday, September 26, 2017

News: Smugglers jailed for £3.8m tax fraud

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A South Yorkshire gang, whose criminal tax evasion enterprise was based at a warehouse in Rotherham, have been jailed for a total of 19 years.

The four men, who came from Doncaster and Rotherham, used duplicated paperwork to bring truckloads of beer into the country from France, Belgium and Germany in a scam known as diversion fraud.

An investigation by HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) found the gang sold the illegally imported goods for cash on a "no VAT, no invoice" basis to small off licences and other retailers across Yorkshire and Lincolnshire, predominantly in Doncaster, Hull and Scunthorpe.

Ringleader Huseyin Zerze, of Lonsdale Avenue, Doncaster,used a sandwich shop as a front to hide his criminal scheme transforming it from making £30,000-a-year to spending around £1.5m on alcohol in five months.

The goods were purchased by the gang before being imported into the UK via a bonded warehouse in Germany, where alcohol can be stored without paying duty. Large volumes of household branded beer, including Budweiser, Carlsberg and Stella, were illegally imported and sold in the UK.

According to the import paperwork, the truckloads of duty-suspended beer were destined for UK bonded warehouses based in Haydock, Doncaster and London. However the beer was illegally diverted to the gang's premises and then sold without duty being paid.

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The gang initially used Expo Cash & Carry Ltd, owned by Zerze, to run the fraud from premises in Doncaster, Liverpool and Roydon. The business closed down in June 2013 after HMRC started looking into the company.

Zerze and his right hand man, Ozgur Kaplan, of Pringle Road, Rotherham, continued the fraud using the company details and accounts of a former £30,000 a year sandwich shop in York called The Pita (UK) Ltd.

The gang leader also employed his uncles, Ibrahim and Huseyin Mayil, to set up a new business called Rotherham Cash & Carry Ltd at Hellaby, to take deliveries and sell the illegal goods once they arrived in the UK.

HMRC officers raided Rotherham Cash & Carry, in November 2013. At the same time, German authorities closed down the bonded warehouse after the company was found to be operating illegally.

They seized more than 425,000 litres of smuggled beer, worth £575,706 in duty, and £68,000 cash from various businesses premises.

Kaplan was arrested in November 2013 and £43,000 cash as well as receipts for the purchase of more than £215,000 of alcohol were seized from his vehicle. A further £5,000 was seized from his former home address in Wood Green, London.

When Huseyin Mayil was arrested, officers seized £20,000 from him. His brother was arrested in January 2015.

The four men were sentenced for conspiring to cheat the public revenue at Leeds Crown Court last week. Proceedings are underway to recover any profit made from these crimes.

Stuart Taylor, assistant director, fraud investigation Service at HMRC, said: "This was a sophisticated and shameful attack on the UK's alcohol trade that undoubtedly harmed legitimate and hardworking businesses. Zerze and his criminal gang stole millions of pounds which should have been used to fund our public services and now they are paying the price behind bars."

Images: HMRC


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News: International footballer to talk on tackling business

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An international footballer turned entrepreneur will be in the region next month to kick off a free event highlighting the importance of mentoring in business.

In his fourteen year career, Danny Mills won the League Cup with Middlesbrough, earned 19 caps for his country and played for four Premier League clubs including Leeds United and Manchester City.

Outside of football, the former right back has built and maintained a commercial and residential property portfolio and following his retirement from the game, Danny has continued to develop his business interests, successfully turning around the West Cornwall Pasty Co and sold Deeside print from Excelsior Technologies for £33m earlier this year.

Mills will speak at a special event hosted by Launchpad Mentoring; a Sheffield city region wide programme which matches new entrepreneurs with experienced business owners. The event is designed to encourage business owners to pledge their support and sign up to become a Launchpad mentor, to pass their skills and knowledge to new entrepreneurs to help them achieve their full potential.

Now an investor and member of the advisory board at Enact, a turnaround business fund which is part of Endless LLP in Leeds, Danny will share the story of his dramatic change of direction from football to business as well as providing tips and tools to promote business growth and explaining how the role of mentors has helped to shape his own business journey.

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The Launchpad programme is a £4m, three year, part-ERDF funded programme and the event on October 25 forms part of Launchpad Mentoring Month and is just one of a series of workshops and activities.

Irshad Akbar, business mentoring manager at Launchpad, said: "Many individuals who start a business need support from someone who has been there and done it and working with a mentor can offer insight and experience along the way. The Launchpad Mentoring programme was established to connect new entrepreneurs with existing business owners who are keen to see others in the Sheffield City Region succeed.

"We are looking forward to welcoming Danny Mills as our guest of honour. Although he is perhaps best known for his exploits and success on the pitch, since retiring from the beautiful game Danny has established himself as a highly successful business owner and during the event he will be sharing anecdotes from his playing days, as well as offering tips on how to succeed in business.

"This special event, which forms part of a month dedicated to mentoring, highlights and celebrates the work undertaken as a result of mentoring whilst encouraging new entrepreneurs and business owners to take advantage of the free support available through the Launchpad programme."

Danny Mills, investor at Enact (pictured), added: "I have always had an interest in business and alongside my football career I created a successful commercial and residential property portfolio. After retiring from professional football I wanted to put my business skills and knowledge to further use and joined forces with the partners at private equity turnaround specialist Endless LLP to form Enact, creating an investment fund aimed at helping distressed SME businesses get back to success.

"I am honoured to be speaking at the Launchpad Mentoring event, which I hope will help aspiring and existing business owners within the Sheffield city region to find out more about the help and support which is readily available on their doorstep."

The event, at The Hide in Sheffield, is free for entrepreneurs and business owners within the city region who will need to register here.

SCR Launchpad mentoring website

Images: Launchpad


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Monday, September 25, 2017

News: Sales up as Fishing Republic continues with expansion plans

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Rotherham-based retailer, Fishing Republic, expects to move back into profit this year as the high level of investment in expansion begins to pay off in the second half of the year.

One of the largest fishing tackle retailers in the UK, the Eastwood company floated on the AIM stock exchange in 2015, raising millions to help carry out its expansion plans. A new share placing during 2016 landed a further £3.75m.

Fishing Republic is acting as a consolidator and expansion plans involve new larger format stores and snapping up smaller, often family-owned fishing retail businesses.

Seven stores have opened this calendar year, with the network growing to 19. New store openings replicate the "destination" store format, catering for all types of fishing disciplines with an extensive product range, and are located in light-industrial estates with convenient access and good car parking facilities. New locations for stores are being reviewed, as are potential acquisitions.

Reporting its interim financial results for the six months ended June 30 2017, the Eastwood firm said that revenues were up 64% to £4.09m from the £2.5m in 2016, with like-for-like sales up by 22%. The investment in expansion meant that overall a loss before tax was posted of £0.12m. The same period last year saw a profit before tax of £0.16m.

Fishing Republic continues to execute its multi-channel growth model, focusing on transitioning the majority of online sales to its own websites, where margins are higher and direct relationships can be created with customers. Website sales accelerated in the first half of 2017, with sales up by 140% year-on-year. Total online sales, including revenues through third party platforms, rose by 23% to £929,400.

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James Newman, chairman of Fishing Republic, said: "Fishing Republic continues to deliver on its ambitions to materially expand its presence, both physically and online, in the fishing tackle marketplace. This is evident in the strong revenue growth achieved in the first half of the year, as store sales rose by 83% and sales via the company's own website grew by 140% in the period.

"The opportunity for Fishing Republic to establish a dominant position in its highly fragmented sector is exciting and the group remains very well-positioned for ongoing growth, both in store and online."

Steve Gross, CEO at Fishing Republic, added: "I am delighted with the progress we have made so far this year. We have continued with the expansion of our "destination" store network, opening five new stores in the period with a further two opened in August. Our estate now stands at 19 stores and covers new geographic regions, including South East Midlands and East Anglia, which will also help to support our online strategy.

"Online sales are also a key focus and we continue to transition away from third party platforms to our own websites, particularly www.fishingrepublic.net. Sales via our own sites grew by 140% and we are supporting them with significant new investment in our site functionality and services. The average customer basket value on our own site was £70.59, compared to £14.54 average basket generated by third party marketplaces.

"We remain excited about the opportunity for consolidation, given the fragmented nature of the sector, and continue to consider complementary acquisitions, as well as organic growth opportunities.

"We look forward to a second half of continuing strong progress."

Fishing Republic website

Images: Fishing Republic / Google Maps


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News: SCR's new economic growth strategy focuses on inclusion

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A new strategy has been drafted for ensuring that the continued economic growth across the Sheffield city region benefits the whole of the population.

Outlined recently by the SCR the Local Enterprise Partnership, the main focus of the Inclusive Industrial Strategy is generating wealth and jobs. It has the aim of creating a 21st Century Making City Region.

Whilst the number of jobs has increased along with the GVA (the increase in the value of the economy due to the production of goods and services), inequality has remained high and significant parts of the population have not benefited from economic growth.

The LEP reported that 16,000 new jobs had been brought to the economy in the last three years and the SCR's private sector added some £1.34 billion in GVA between 2013 and 2015. However, it was estimated that the city region's GVA has to increase by £3 billion just to reach the national average (excluding London) and GVA per head in SCR is only £16,786, suggesting low productivity.

The draft strategy outlines that: "Our objective will be to accelerate growth whilst ensuring this creates more and better jobs, providing opportunities for people from communities throughout the City Region where intergenerational unemployment and deprivation remain pressing challenges. However, for growth to be inclusive we first need to generate wealth and jobs. As such the focus of industrial policy should be to tackle the issues making places less productive and build on their underlying capabilities.

"Inclusive growth is integral to our Industrial Strategy approach as social and spatial disparities can act as a drag on productivity and future growth prospects and create wider social costs. So, by making growth inclusive we can release latent potential in the labour market to generate wealth but also help improve life chances and reduce the demand on public services and spending. However, there is also growing evidence that productivity gaps in the economy have contributed to widening wage disparities over the past two or three decades. So, inclusive growth and productivity are two sides of the same coin."

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The strategy looks at businesses support and new technologies, building upon existing assets such as the Rotherham and Sheffield Advanced Manufacturing Innovation District. It also sets out a plan to identify companies with significant growth potential and offer them further support. There will also be an additional drive to improve the city region's international brand and reputation.

Creating places where people want to live, work and play is also a key priority. The strategy sets out a vision for achieving this by developing plans that focus upon the city region’s urban areas, as well as the seven “growth” areas. Using Government finance to support housebuilding will be key to delivering on this.

The priority for skills will be to close the city region's skills deficit, in order to drive higher growth and productivity. This would be done by means such as study programmes, apprenticeships or work placements.

The final priority outlined in the report is transport. From moving around the city region itself, through a fully-integrated public transport system, to improving links across the North, the UK and internationally through Doncaster Sheffield Airport.

Sir Nigel Knowles, chairman of the LEP, said: "Supporting people and businesses across the Sheffield City Region to thrive has consistently been at the core of our thinking and action.

"But we want to go further, unlocking the potential to grow faster. That's why this Inclusive Industrial Strategy has been written, in order to enable us to invest and deliver in a new way, looking at how we can best help those marginalised groups and places.

"The strategy is about crucial elements for economic growth such as job creation, building new homes and enabling businesses to thrive.

"While we are incredibly proud of what we're doing already – indeed, we've seen the first private sector growth in a generation – we want to go beyond this and ensure that all our diverse communities across the city region benefit from economic growth."

The Inclusive Industrial Strategy will go out to consultation before a final version is formally considered by the LEP before the end of the year.

SCR LEP website

Images: SCR LEP


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Friday, September 22, 2017

News: Planning inspector to decide on Rotherham travellers site

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A planning inspector will rule whether a 6-pitch traveller site can be created on Green Belt land adjacent to the site of a proposed £37m leisure development at Rother Valley.

Plans have been refused twice by Rotherham Council and now the applicant has appealed the latest decision.

In March last year plans were submitted by a Mr Smith for a 12-pitch traveller site and screening mound with planting on a reclaimed site of vacant grassland at Swallownest between the A57 and railway line, to the north of the development site known as Pit House West.

Rotherham Council refused the application and concluded that the site is considered to be in an unsustainable location and the proposals would have an adverse impact on the openness of the Green Belt.

At the end of 2016, new plans were submitted for a change of use of the land for the siting of caravans for residential purposes for six gypsy pitches together with the installation of hardstanding.

Again, Rotherham Council refused the plans based on the inappropriateness of the development and the adverse impact on the openness of the Green Belt in this location.

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Applicants need to demonstrate very special circumstances to justify development in the Green Belt and the applicant's appeal is based on the development constituting "sustainable development and would provide much needed accommodation for gypsy and travellers within the Rotherham MBC [area]."

Planning consultants for the applicant said in an appeal statement that material considerations should be given weight as the Council has yet to sign off its Local Plan and are unable to demonstrate a five year supply of gypsy and traveller pitches.

With a need identified for more pitches, the borough's local plan included a proposal to use land at a former council depot at Dog Kennels Lane, Kiveton Park for a gypsy and traveller site. It is big enough to hold six to eight pitches.

An appeal hearing, where the inspector will hear representations on the application, has been scheduled for November 14.

Planning permission was granted earlier this year for the £37m Gulliver's Valley family theme park on the Pit House West site where the family-owned business is purchasing around 250 acres of the restored former colliery and opencast site from Rotherham Council. The applicants demonstrated very special circumstances, not least the 400 jobs that are expected to be created and the total annual operating net economic impact on the local economy of £11.6m.

The scheme is expected to be built over 12 - 15 years in a number of phases. Phase one includes the main Gulliver's theme park with three themed areas, the entrance hub and castle, and is set to open in 2020.

Images: Google Maps


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