Vincent John McKee, the head of three college tuition companies, has been disqualified from acting as a director for 14 years. The ban was handed down by the High Court in Manchester after the tutor and trainer was found guilty of 25 separate acts of fraud.

Dr McKee, aged 56 from Coventry, was disqualified following an Insolvency Service investigation into his running of UAT (GB) Ltd, UAT (UK) Ltd and Godiva Corporate Training. All three companies were liquidated in the public interest in October 2012, leaving shareholders and creditors £156,605 out of pocket.

Numerous complaints to Trading Standards

Between January 2008 and August 2012, the three companies, which were set up to provide tuition services and corporate training practices to students, were the subject of numerous complaints to Trading Standards. It was claimed the companies had taken unauthorised payments worth £61,197 from their students. In addition, there were also direct claims for a sum of £96,624 which had been taken from customers’ credit cards.

As part of the scam, the investigation found that the three companies failed to inform its customers of the cost of its services, the payment arrangements, the duration of contracts or the customers’ cancellation rights. The company also failed to reimburse customers who cancelled the service within 30 days.

25 counts of tax fraud

As well as being banned from acting as a director for the next 14 years, Dr McKee has also received a two and a half year custodial sentence for 25 acts of fraud. This included a six month sentence, to run concurrently, for the offence of breaching professional due diligence.

Following the Insolvency Service investigation, the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills presented winding-up petitions for ICU, UAT UK and Godiva, all on grounds of the public interest. Specifically, this related to the following acts:

– Withdrawal of money from customer accounts without their full authority
– Failure to prepare, maintain or deliver up proper accounting records
– Failure to cooperate with the investigation
– Use of mis-statements and pseudonyms on the company website
– Continuation of the business contrary to the public interest

On 10 August 2012, the official receiver was appointed as the provisional liquidator of ICUT and UAT UK. On the same day, Godiva was the subject of a court order, preventing the business from:

– Collecting or withdrawing any money from bank accounts, including those from any customer or former customer of Godiva, ICUT or UAT UK
– Making false statements about its services, including the identify of its trainers or tutors on its website or on any other piece of promotional material
– Selling or disposing of its assets, aside from those authorised under the terms of a validation order
– Retaining the credit or debt card details of any customer or former customer of the three companies

Godiva must also:

– Preserve all books, records and customer information held on its customer database
– Deliver up specified accounting records, including customer files and contracts, to the customers’ solicitors by 24 August
– File a witness statement if any of the above documents are no longer in Godiva’s possession, explaining what happened to the relevant document

Welcoming the court’s decision, Ken Beasley, official receiver at the Insolvency Service, said: “Dr McKee has breached the trust of unsuspecting students, many of whom would be facing their own financial pressures. The Insolvency Service will not tolerate company directors who abuse the privileges of limited liability for company gain.”

Although this was a clear case of fraud there are lessons to be learnt for insolvent company directors. Always make sure you keep accurate accounting records of the company activities and submit annual returns on time. One man limited companies particularly consultants get themselves into all sorts of problems, especially with HMRC often because they see their accountant once a year. Usually by the end of the year any damage may well have been done. If you are a consultant and or one man limited company and have problems with HMRC then call 0800 074 6757 to see how we can help.