A woman who handled nearly £350,000 ‘out of sheer greed’ while running a Chinese restaurant in Hull has been surprised after an investigation revealed how much she earned from Just Eat and Hungry House.
Mother-of-three Ying Ni grossly under-declared income from Moon River takeaway on Holderness Road to dodge huge VAT, income tax and corporation tax payments on a period of five years.
Services such as education and health services were hit by fraud and she knew exactly what she was doing and did not act in ignorance of regulations, Hull Crown Court heard.
Read more: Moon River’s grim catalog of food hygiene nightmares to take away
Ni, 35, of Holderness Road, admitted to nine offenses of fraud or cheating with public revenue between 2015 and 2020. Her husband, Chief Fengsi He, 38, appeared with her in the dock but the charges charges against him were dropped.
Howard Shaw, prosecuting, said Ni under-reported the company’s taxable turnover and profits, failed to register for VAT and failed to submit VAT returns, and fraudulently evaded payment of VAT, income tax and corporation tax. The total fraud involved was £349,775 and the breaches came to light in December 2020.
She registered the business with Just Eat and Hungry House for online sales and claimed the total five-year turnover between 2013 and 2018 was £341,483. But inquiries revealed that, for those two outlets alone, the turnover was £950,990 – just over three times the figure she had reported to Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs.
The income tax evaded for those five years was £87,378. Financial year sums for VAT evasion included £68,349 for 2018 to 2019 and £44,787 for 2019 to 2020. She failed to provide precise business figures for turnover and profit and dishonestly omitted to provide correct information.
In an interview with investigators, Ni said her husband was the boss and helped run the business. She claimed that she misunderstood the VAT requirements. To date, nothing had been refunded but she said she wanted to make refunds.
Mitigating Jessica Strange said: “It’s a lot of money and it was over an extended period of time. There’s no denying that these are very serious offences.
“She fully accepts the dishonesty in relation to these offences. There is no suggestion that it was a mistake. She accepts the dishonesty. We accept that it was an extended period.
“It’s one of the less sophisticated offenses of its kind. No doubt it was always going to be discovered.” Online records of sales were kept and these could be easily found.
Ni launched the company in 2013 and it initially operated legitimately for the first two years. There were food hygiene infractions but there was no prior dishonesty.
Ni had three children, a son aged five and two daughters aged 15 and 13. She still ran the Moon River restaurant in Hull and had three employees. “All his financial affairs are now in order,” Miss Strange said.
“If she goes to jail, the business just won’t be able to run. She works six days a week. Employees will lose their jobs. She won’t be able to run the business.”
The family lived above the premises and, as the lease included the whole building and not just the takeaway, their home would be in danger. Ni’s husband ran a separate takeaway in Hornsea.
Judge Sophie McKone told Ni: “Out of sheer greed and not ignorance, for a significant period of time, that is five years, you have deprived Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs of a sum significant amount of money, just under £350,000.
“You did this because you grossly under-reported the amount of money you made from your business by not registering for VAT and then, of course, not paying the VAT you should have.
“You have deprived the government, in fact the public really, of a large amount of money which could have been used for much needed services, the most obvious being education and health, and so it is a crime against people because if everyone did what you were doing, there would be no services, no health service.
“That’s why it’s extremely important that people take responsibility and pay what they owe. This was fraudulent activity carried out over an extended period of time – five years.”
Ni had fled China in 2006 because she feared persecution and had important responsibilities to care for her three children. She took medication for a lifelong illness.
Ni was imprisoned for two years and four months. She was banned from being a business director for five years, but no confiscation order was made because HMRC would make its own arrangements to recover money.
The court proceedings were translated for Ni and her husband in the dock by a Mandarin interpreter.