The Pensions Regulator (TPR) has launched criminal proceedings against an accountant who deliberately provided false information about pension provision at a company he was working for.
Hashmukh Shah has been charged with knowingly or recklessly providing false or misleading information to the watchdog in connection with a pension scheme for staff of London-based Italian restaurant Gran Caffe Londra.
In information submitted to TPR, he said the restaurant's staff had been auto-enrolled into a pension scheme, when this was not the case. The watchdog believes this was to avoid an inspection which would have uncovered the illicit activity.
The employer's staging date was in October 2015, but no declaration of compliance was submitted to the regulator at this point, leading to enforcement action being launched.
After a threat of an inspection was issued, the 'misleading declaration of compliance was then submitted in November 2016.
Later, the regulator became concerned that duties were still not being fulfilled and discovered the statement was misleading, then launching action against Shah.
The company, which has a high turnover but usually has between 10 and 15 eligible members of staff, has now submitted a truthful declaration of compliance and has been meeting its duties since March this year.
Shah is due to appear at Brighton Magistrates' Court on 15 August, and could be given an unlimited fine. If the case is then remitted to the Crown Court, he faces an unlimited fine, a prison sentence of up to two years, or both.
The case is the first time the regulator has charged an employer's third-party for this offence.
It is the latest in a string of criminal cases the regulator has launched over the last two years. Most recently, Samuel Smith Old Brewery and its chairman Humphrey Smith were fined a total of £28,000 for failing to submit information requested by TPR.
The regulator also revealed last week it had received more than 100 whistleblowing reports of employers inducing their staff to opt out of auto-enrolment over the last three years, although it is unknown how many of those led to enforcement action.
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