scales of justice 2

David Nicholson, former owner of Nicholson’s Transport, which went under in June last year, has been found guilty of fraudulently evading payment of over £130,000 of VAT and given a 22-month suspended prison sentence.

Durham Crown Court heard that a routine HMRC investigation in October 2018 found that company accountant James Sobotowski had adjusted five figures for quarterly VAT returns by £132,000, at Nicholson’s behest.

Nicholson said he asked his accountant to adjust the payment after realising the company could not pay.

He claimed he had intended to repay the £132,000, adding: “It was never stolen. It was borrowed.”

Nicholson, 54, and Sobotowski, 61, both of previously good character, admitted fraudulent evasion of VAT.

Simon Gurney, for Nicholson, said the company struggled following the 2007/8 financial crisis. He added that Nicholson’s “serious error of judgement” was driven by his desire to keep the business afloat and save the jobs of 50 staff.

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Richard Herrmann, for Sobotowski, said he was merely, “acting on instructions”.

Judge Jonathan Carroll told the defendants: “This was plain and simple evasion, whether or not you intended to pay it back,” adding that any intention to repay the money was “deluded and unrealistic”.

Nicholson received a 22-month prison sentence, suspended for two years and given 180 hours of unpaid work, whilst Sobotowski was given a 16-month prison sentence suspended for two years and ordered to carry out 80 hours of unpaid work.

The police are also investigating Nicholson for crime proceeds. According to Companies House, Nicholson is a director of Burnside Distribution, specialising in warehousing and full loads. Burnside Distribution was set up just days after Nicholson’s Transport went into insolvency proceedings in May last year.

Nicholson is also a director of Nicholson’s Hiab, which has a licence for 10 trucks and 10 trailers. Both companies are based at Billingham in Cleveland.

David Nicholson has yet to respond to a request for comment.