An accountant working on behalf of Primadell, the organisation that runs Gran Caffe Londra in Knightsbridge, has pleaded guilty to falsely informing The Pensions Regulator (TPR) that employees had been automatically enrolled into a workplace pension scheme.
In October 2015, Gran Caffe Londra missed its deadline to confirm that it had automatically enrolled its employees into a workplace pension. TPR sought to arrange an inspection to investigate this, but the café’s accountant, Hashmukh Shah, filed a declaration of compliance in November 2016, stating that the organisation had met its pensions duties.
In a later interview, Shah admitted to purposely misleading TPR. This false declaration had prevented TPR’s investigation, which would have found that staff had not been auto-enrolled into a pension scheme. The café’s employees were without a workplace pension, which they are entitled to, for more than a year.
On Wednesday 15 August 2018 at Brighton Magistrates’ Court, Shah pleaded guilty to knowingly or recklessly providing false or misleading information to TPR. Deliberately providing false information to TPR about compliance with automatic enrolment duties is an offence under Section 80 of the Pensions Act 2004. This charge carries a maximum penalty of an unlimited fine.
Darren Ryder, director of automatic enrolment at TPR, said: “It is totally unacceptable for an accountant or any other professional to file false documents to purposely avoid meeting an employer’s automatic enrolment pension duties. There is no legitimate excuse for such action, which denies staff the savings they deserve for their retirement.
“If a professional files false documents we will catch up with them and, like in this case, take action against them. This prosecution sends a strong message to accountants and advisers tasked with completing an employer’s automatic enrolment duties. If [they] provide us with false or misleading information, we will take legal action which may leave [individuals] with a criminal conviction. We will also ensure backdated contributions are paid to staff.”
The case has been adjourned for sentencing at Brighton Magistrates’ Court on 5 September 2018. This is the first time TPR has prosecuted a third party working on behalf of an employer for this offence.
Primadell became compliant with its pension duties in March 2018 and backdated pension contributions for its employees.
Gran Caffe Londra is unavailable for comment at the time of publication.