STEVEN DOWNES reports on how a recently re-elected Tory councillor has been overseeing a restaurant business which has left a trail of debts over the past decade
A Croydon Conservative councillor, who runs an “award-winning” restaurant, has meanwhile seen five separate companies associated with the business put into administration over the past decade. Between them, the companies owed hundreds of thousands of pounds to creditors, including local small traders, as well as Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs and Croydon Council.
By an astonishing coincidence, soon after generously bunging all that money to the local Tories, Quadir was selected as a candidate at the 2010 local elections in the safe Conservative ward of Purley. Duly elected, in 2013, Quadir was the Tories’ choice to be Croydon’s deputy mayor.
And this month, Quadir was elected again as Conservative councillor for the re-jigged Purley and Woodcote ward. At the Town Hall last night, Quadir was named as Croydon Tories’ leader Tim Pollard’s choice as deputy shadow cabinet member for culture and sport. It could prove an astute choice: since 2008, Quadir’s businesses have performed tax avoidance to an Olympic level.
Public records from Companies House show that five companies behind the restaurants linked to Quadir – the Royal Tandoori on Addington Road, Selsdon, and on Godstone Road, Whyteleafe – folded owing significant sums, mostly to HMRC.
The latest instance saw a company folded in March this year owing £54,711.96 in unpaid PAYE, VAT, National Insurance and Corporation Tax. The company’s total debts came to £85,268.21, with very little prospect of the creditors getting back the money they are owed. Quadir’s restaurants, meanwhile, continue to trade.
There is no suggestion that what Quadir has done with any of his businesses is illegal. However, the ethics of folding a company to avoid paying creditors is highly questionable. The practice of repeatedly folding companies to avoid paying bills, and then setting up again under a new trading name shortly afterwards, is often referred to as “phoenixing”.
As a means of avoiding paying Corporation Tax, employers’ National Insurance contributions and VAT, it all seems to be a bit of a breeze. Perhaps it is the Tory way of doing business?
We asked Chris Philp, the thrustingly entrepreneurial Conservative MP for the area – who last year was pictured on a money-off leaflet for one of Quadir’s curry houses – whether he disapproved of this way of doing business. Philp, after all, has his own interesting business record that he doesn’t like talking about.
But by the time of publication, Philp had failed to respond to Inside Croydon’s questions about the ethics of Quadir’s business methods.
The majority of companies that fail don’t do so because of any wrongdoing on the part of the directors, and companies can be dissolved or face financial difficulties for a variety of reasons apart from misconduct. Therefore, English law allows owners, directors and employees of insolvent companies to set up new companies to carry on a similar business as long as the individuals involved aren’t personally bankrupt or disqualified from acting in the management of a limited company.
However, when a company enters liquidation (this is often referred to as “being wound up”), insolvency law restricts who can reuse the company’s registered name and trading names. In general, anyone who was a director in the 12 months before the company went into liquidation is banned from taking part in the management of another business with the same name. This prohibition lasts for five years and also covers names which are so similar they suggest an association with the previous company.
Badsha Quadir is reported to come from “a family of restaurateurs”. He and his wife, Jebun, have three children.
According to Quadir’s declarations of interest with Croydon Council, he owns two properties: one, at Addington Road (possibly the Selsdon tandoori restaurant), and another called The Stocks in Upper Woodcote Village, where four-bedroomed houses have sold in the past year for £1million-plus.
At the start of this month, one of their sons, Areeb Quadir, was featured in coverage of the Royal Tandoori’s success at the London Curry Awards, where they won the “Restaurant of the year: south west” award, an achievement described by the Croydon Guardian as “much to the delight of Areeb Quadir, who helps run the restaurant with his father”.
When the Selsdon restaurant was nominated for the London Curry Awards, the Croydon Advertiser described Badsha Quadir as the restaurant owner, quoting him as saying, “I have long-standing dedicated staff who take pride in their work and every success deservedly comes their way.”
Quadir senior has been a regular in the pages of the local press over the years, often pictured beaming outside one of his restaurants after being nominated for the latest in a string of business awards.
What has had less coverage – until now – has been the way those businesses have been managed.
Inside Croydon has unearthed evidence of liquidated companies and huge unpaid tax bills, the most recent of which – Selsdon Cross Ltd – was dissolved on March 14 this year, owing creditors £85,000. The sole director of Selsdon Cross when it went into voluntary liquidation, was 23-year-old, Whitgift School-educated Areeb Quadir.
Although Badsha Quadir is reported to be the owner of the restaurants, he hasn’t been a director of any of the companies operating them since 2008. His declarations of interest as a Croydon councillor show the Royal Tandoori restaurants as his employment – suggesting that he is a wage-drawing member of staff.
But his wife and sons, including 21-year-old Labib Quadir (who was given a directorship of one of the companies at the tender age of 16), often appear on formal documents of the holding companies.
Badsha Quadir was director and company secretary of Vanmarsh Ltd from March 2000 until the company was dissolved in April 2008. Also listed among the directors of Vanmarsh was Jebun Quadir, his wife, when they were living in a four-bed house on Pampisford Road.
Jebun Quadir was listed as director of Croydon Caterers Ltd between 1999 and when it was dissolved in 2010. Badsha Quadir was a director of the company until 2008.
Between them, these two companies folded while owing HMRC more than £100,000, and a few thousands to Croydon and Tandridge councils.
The Quadir family continued to operate the Royal Tandoori, just as the law for limited companies allows. The directors are not liable for the company’s debts and a company can be liquidated without creditors being able to pursue an action if the company itself has no assets.
Following the closure of Vanmarsh and Croydon Caterers, new companies, with what looks like off-the-shelf registration names, Flexmanor and Gradefield, appeared, as if by magic.
Flexmanor, “trading as Royal Tandoori”, as Companies House documents record, had been formed in October 2008.
Jebun Quadir, by now giving the millionaires’ row Upper Woodcote Village as her home address, was appointed as a director in June 2011. Her husband, Badsha, had by now been a Croydon councillor for just over 12 months.
Flexmanor’s last financial returns were filed in August 2011, and in September 2012, Jebun Quadir was signing off a voluntary liquidation document following a meeting in the north London office of a firm of accountants.
“It has been proved to the satisfaction of this meeting that the company cannot by reason of its liabilities continue its business and it is advisable to wind-up the same,” was the statement which Jebun Quadir signed.
Those liabilities amounted to £75,766, mainly of unpaid PAYE (£14,479) and VAT (£57,401).
It was a similar story at Gradefield Ltd, also noted in official records as “trading as Royal Tandoori”.
Gradefield had been registered in 2008. Jebun Quadir was appointed as a director in March 2012. When the company was dissolved in February 2014, it had total debts to creditors of £59,589, of which £42,227 was in unpaid VAT.
And still the restaurants continued to trade, serving hundreds of diners each month. Selsdon Cross, formed as a company in 2014, may be no more, but no sooner had it gone into voluntary liquidation in March this year than Areeb Quadir was holding a directorship of another company – RT Dining Ltd (for “Royal Tandoori Dining”, perhaps?) – which was registered on April 6, 2018.
On the restaurants’ flashy looking website, they have a common slogan: “The future of tradition”. No, we don’t know what it’s supposed to mean, either.
They say, “Royal Tandoori is a stunning restaurant where contemporary meets traditional. No expense has been spared in achieving this and as you step into this meticulously designed restaurant, you will for sure see just that with our opulent mood lighting. The decor is clean and crisp with designs which compliments India’s Tradition.”
“No expense spared“, eh? Officials at HMRC probably have a keen idea of how the Quadirs manage to pay for that.
“Royal Tandoori continually seeks improvement on all fronts,” the restaurant’s website tells us. “We are bold enough to explore unchartered waters…”, which is certainly the case as far as their tax accounting is concerned.
Between 2006 and 2009, Badsha Quadir became a political donor. According to the Electoral Commission, in that time he made six payments of varying amounts to the Croydon Conseratives, totalling £12,000. He was then selected as a candidate for the local elections in 2010.
And while Quadir has not been so generous in cash terms to the local Tories recently, he and his family continue to give generously of their time in aid of their party: Jebun Quadir was a Conservative Party candidate in Labour-held Bensham Manor ward at the latest local elections.
Such loyalty has its rewards, with Badsha Quadir having been nominated to be the Mayor of Croydon if the Tories won the election. And now the “owner” of the award-winning “licensed restaurants” business has been given the onerous task by Croydon Tories’ leader Tim Pollard of serving on… the borough’s licensing committee. Whose bright idea was that?
Inside Croydon contacted Tim Pollard to ask what the Croydon Conservatives’ position was on businesses which seem to have a habit of having their holding companies going into voluntary liquidation whenever they have a large VAT bill to pay.
We also asked Pollard:
- Will Croydon Conservatives be returning the thousands of pounds in political donations to Badsha Quadir, so that he might pay back a fraction of the money he owes to local businesses, the tax man or Croydon Council?
- Or will you be making any deductions from Councillor Quadir’s council allowances until the debts to the local authority are paid off?
- And will Croydon Conservatives be conducting any form of internal investigation into the conduct of Badsha Quadir to determine whether he is a fit and proper person to serve as a Croydon councillor?
Pollard has not responded to our questions, although he might need to when the matter is brought to the attention of the council’s Monitoring Officer.
We also sought a comment, some sort of justification perhaps, from Badsha Quadir himself.
The only response we got was a lawyer’s letter, from a firm called Nath Solicitors (we are not making this up).
We had given Councillor Quadir all day yesterday to explain himself, and 20 minutes before our deadline, his Bloomsbury Square brief dropped us a line.
“Our client welcomes the opportunity to respond,” Nath wrote, “and will do so in due course, however as you will appreciate, particularly given the serious allegations that you have raised including of financial impropriety…”, we made no allegations; just asked some questions, based on Companies House records, but hey ho, “… it will not be possible to respond by your deadline…
“Our client takes these matters very seriously and denies any suggestions of wrongdoing.”
So seriously, in fact, that 24 hours later, and Councillor Badsha Quadir has still to provide a single word of explanation for the conduct of his business.
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