City of York Council and its fraud investigation partner Veritau have uncovered and prosecuted a serious case of small business rate relief fraud, which is thought to be the first such successful prosecution in the country.
The fraud was for the amount of £4,097.
Mr Yigit Ceyhan, (aged 27 of Boroughbridge Road, York) had applied for and received business rate relief on one property- a fish and chip shop- after providing the council with a forged lease as evidence that his landlord was responsible for the business rates at a second property, where he ran a barber shop.
An investigation found that Mr Ceyhan had been occupying and running the barber shop for four years and that the lease agreement provided to the council was false. He was therefore not entitled to relief at the fish and chip shop because he was liable for more than one business property in contravention of the rules.
Small business rate relief is provided by the council up to a discount of up to 100% for certain businesses, which in most instances must be the sole business property of the applicant.
At his trial Mr. Ceyhan pleaded guilty to a charge of perverting the course of justice and on Monday 9 April at York Crown Court, Mr Ceyhan was sentenced to eight months imprisonment suspended for two years, was ordered to do 250 hours of unpaid work and to pay prosecution costs of £1,382.
Councillor Ian Gillies, leader of City of York Council with portfolio for finance and performance, said: “This is one if not the first business rate fraud prosecution in the country and an excellent result showing that we will not tolerate fraud against the public purse.
“Fraudulently claiming discounts reduces the funding available for public services for everyone else in York. Evading liability on business properties is a serious offence that can lead to a criminal record, fines or even a custodial sentence. We encourage anyone with any information on fraudulent activity to phone the fraud hotline on 0800 9179 247 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.”