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    A LONDON businessman has been disqualified as a director for 12 years and ordered to repay more than £2 million in connection with wrongful trading offences.

    Dhiren Doshi was a director of VK Vintners, which imported wine from Europe and distributed it to off-licences nationwide. The company was placed in liquidation in 1995, soon after a raid by Customs officers investigating allegations of VAT fraud.

    Mr Doshi, 45, was acquitted of criminal charges in 1996, but then faced a protracted civil case brought by the liquidator, Neil Hickling of Smith & Williamson. The Official Receiver simultaneously brought disqualification proceedings.

    The case centred on “fresh air” invoices, in which false invoices were submitted to a factoring company in respect of wine that had never been ordered. The factoring company advanced money upfront, allowing VK Vintners to continue trading while insolvent.

    The firm was set up in 1992, taking over the assets of Universal Merchandises (Wines) owned by members of the Doshi family. Universal then went into compulsory liquidation with an apparent deficiency to creditors of £1.1 million.

    Finding for the claimants at the High Court in London, Mr Justice Hart rejected Mr Doshi’s argument that the VK Vintners’ collapse was caused by the Customs raid. He said: “It should have been clear to Mr Doshi that an insolvent liquidation was a reasonable likelihood from the moment when he concluded that the fraudulent invoices were necessary to ensure its day-to-day survival”.

    “The Times” March 2001