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Mon 23rd Dec 2013 - Breaking News - Frank Dowling of Inc Group arrested
Frank Dowling of Inc Group arrested in tax investigation: The founder of Inc Group, which runs restaurants, bars, nightclubs, member clubs and an event company in London, Frank Dowling, has been arrested by revenue and customs officers after liquidators found documents suggesting his companies owed much more in tax than the taxman knew. According to a report in the Evening Standard today, investigators later discovered files and data which allegedly contained evidence of potential criminal activity. HMRC is now understood to be looking at allegations of £6m of undeclared VAT and PAYE. Dowling's companies are said to be up to a further £9m in debt. Inc Group, founded by Dowling in 2002, owns and operates nine venues including  the Trafalgar Tavern and the Admiral Hardy in Greenwich, the American Sports Bar and Grill, the Inc Brasserie and Union Square in the O2 Arena and the Tompkins restaurant in Canary Wharf. According to the Standard, administrators are trying to establish the ownership of art and antiques worth millions of pounds believed to belong to one of Dowling’s companies, Greenwich Inc Holdings. Other artworks seen hanging in a pub owned by the company have apparently disappeared, the Standard said. It quoted a source as saying: “The trigger for the investigation was a creditors meeting he called: the meeting did not happen. All the creditors were there but Dowling did not attend. Instead he left the country.” Greenwich Inc is now in administration, along with Greenwich Inc Holdings, while Greenwich Inc Trading has been liquidated. Lawyers for Dowling and his associate Audrey McCracken, who has also been arrested, along with an accountant who worked for the company, told the Standard they denied any wrongdoing and were “cooperating fully” with HMRC. The lawyers were quoted as saying: “The investigation, as we understand it, primarily relates to a VAT issue which is complex as it involves different entities within the business structure. The structure is entirely legitimate.” Administrators are looking to sell some businesses as a going concern, the Standard said. It said Union Square and American Bar & Grill will be operated for at least a further four months, while Inc Club has already shut. HMRC said it was unable to comment. Dowling, 44, was born in the United States and moved to the UK in 1997. He bought his first site, Bar du Musee in Greenwich, in 2002, secured the O2 Arena’s first restaurant tenancy in 2007. The following year he acquired the Elbow Room pool bar chain. At its height, Inc Group ran 24 sites, had a turnover of £20m a year and employed 400 people. In March this year, Inc Group was fined almost £20,000 after health inspectors found mouse droppings in the kitchen and raw sewage in sinks at one of its sites, the Trafalgar Tavern in Greenwich.

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