Jailed restaurant owner forced to pay back Covid loan

The former owner of a Derbyshire curry house who was sent to prison for Covid fraud has been ordered to repay more than £36,000.

Syed Hussain was jailed for 18 months and banned as a company director for three years in August 2023 after admitting charges of fraud by false representation and an offence under the Companies Act.

Hussain fraudulently secured a £50,000 Bounce Back Loan in May 2020 while serving a suspended sentence for breaching fire safety regulations at the former Moja Indian restaurant in Matlock.

The 24-year-old then dissolved his Magic of Spice Ltd company on the same day the funds appeared in his bank account.

Hussain, of Provident Street, Derby, was ordered to pay £36,200 during a confiscation hearing at Derby Crown Court on Friday 17 May.

Mark Stephens, chief investigator at the Insolvency Service, said: “Syed Hussain’s cynical actions in exploiting a taxpayer-backed scheme introduced at a time of national emergency were completely unacceptable.

“His behaviour in failing to notify the bank when he was applying to have his company struck off the register was equally calculated and pre-planned.

“The Insolvency Service will not tolerate deliberate abuse of the public purse which is why Hussain now faces a financial penalty to go with the time he has spent behind bars.

Hussain applied for the maximum permitted £50,000 loan in May 2020, claiming on the application form that the turnover of Magic of Spice was £200,000. He later said putting this figure down was a mistake.

Hussain said that he had decided to close down the company based on Dale Road in Matlock when he made the application as it had been struggling for the previous year.

The loan application was made by Hussain when he was only months into a suspended sentence for breaching fire safety regulations at his restaurant.

Hussain transferred £30,000 of the loan to two family members who used the money for their own personal spending.

A further £10,000 was used for personal expenses such as hotels and car hire. No evidence was provided to the Insolvency Service of the money being used for business purposes.

Hussain also made no repayments to the loan despite this being a condition of the scheme.

Derby Crown Court gave Hussain three months to pay the money or face an additional 18 months in prison. Hussain would still owe the full amount ordered in the event he fails to comply and is returned to prison.