THE former boss of a chain of Lancashire restaurants has been banned for three-and-a-half years after trying to dodge the taxman.

Aftab Ali used to run the Four Elephants, in Foulridge, as well as two eateries in the Wigan area and another in Lancaster.

But an investigation by the Insolvency Service has found that Ali, who traded as Barbar Elephants Ltd, ended up owing HM Revenue and Customs more than £340,000.

Ali, of Grange Avenue, Rawtenstall, has now been disqualified as a company director until July 2023.

The restaurateur was also previously involved with Babar Elephant in Cuckstool Lane, Fence, which he ran under a different company, My Elephants, which folded in August 2016.

His Barbar Elephants enterprise ran until the end of October 2017, when the company collapsed owing nearly £350,000.

An inquiry showed that the company started to submit late VAT returns between 2016 and the start of 2017, with total liabilities of £140,496, of which £101,359 is still outstanding.

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But then Ali failed to make any VAT returns for the final quarters before the business crashed, according to the Insolvency Service.

An assessment calculated that he owed £118,198 for the period - the non-payments also resulted in £38,404 in surcharges.

While Barbar was found to have made a payment of £39,136 in March 2017, this only covered a portion of their historical debts and the firm still owed £287,853 in VAT.

Meanwhile trade creditor debts had dropped from £114,293 to £59,177.

Once the likes of pay-as-you-earn tax, National Insurance credits and corporation tax was factored in the final bill to HMRC was more than £340,000.

An Insolvency Service official said: "Analysis of Barbar's bank accounts between December 2, 2016, and cessation shows receipts totalling £1,310,901 and payments out totalling £1,342,841.

"Of the £1,342,841 paid out, £335,974 was paid to trade creditors, cheque payments totalling £444,004 were made of which £39,136 was paid to HMRC, transfers totalling £130,993 were made and payments totalling £117,500 were made to (a) connected party of the director."

Ali also ran Baby Elephant, in Shevington, and Babar Elephant in Orrell, both in the Wigan area, and another Babar Elephant, in Lancaster.

His trade or public creditors included Wigan Council and Lancaster Council and he also owed Khanjra International Foods in Blackburn £4,366.

The four restaurants are still understood to be trading under different management.