Owner of popular Italian restaurant jailed

A Lincoln businessman who failed to declare hundreds of thousands of pounds in ‘serious’ tax fraud has been jailed.

Fathi Zureiqi, 48, of St Catherines, Lincoln failed to declare takings from his pizza house in North Hykeham and Italian restaurant in Sleaford.

Officers from HMRC carried out a raid at his premises in December 2015 after committing £175,000 in tax fraud.

Document checks revealed that Zureiqi had failed to declare takings of almost £400,000 over a three year period.

Zureiqi opened the Tiamo Pizza Restaurant in North Hykeham and then opened the Tiamo Italian Restaurant in Sleaford.

Judge John Pini QC, passing sentence, said: “Nobody likes to pay tax. Tax fraud deprives the government of money it needs for public services for those who are in real need.

“Tax fraud affects all of those who honestly pay their own taxes. I am asked to consider suspending the sentence but this is far too serious. There has to be an immediate custodial sentence.”

Ben Thomas, prosecuting, said: “This is a case involving the under-declaring of figures. The takings far exceeded the amounts that were declared.”

Ashraf Khan, in mitigation, said Zureiqi got into financial difficulties immediately after opening Tiamo Pizza Restaurant.

He said: “In an effort to keeping things going, he started the second business while the first was still in difficulties. He felt he had to keep up appearances to keep his wife happy.

“These businesses should have been closed down. He had a massive lack of judgement in the way he conducted himself.”