An accountant has been disqualified, by the Insolvency Service, from running companies after he helped one of his clients to defraud creditors of more than £1.65 million.

Paul Manley was disqualified for 12 years on 11 December 2018 and his ban is effective from 1 January 2019.

Incorporated in 1994, County West Commercial Services Ltd was an accountancy firm based in Hammersmith. Manley was a director of the company and 13 years later, County West Commercial Services entered into creditors voluntary liquidation in August 2017, triggering an investigation by the Insolvency Service.

One of County West Commercial Services’ clients was Inn Take (UK) Ltd, a company which ran pubs on a short-term basis before it went into liquidation in December 2011. Two of its directors, William Dene Lyall and Joseph Harthen, have subsequently been banned from running companies for 8 and 5 years respectively.

On 27 October 2016, the High Court of Justice ruled in favour of Inn Take’s liquidator that parties, including County West Commercial Services, knew about and assisted Inn Take’s intent in defrauding its creditors.

The fraud revolved around an outsourcing company being appointed to deal with the utility companies of Inn Take in April 2010 and from then to February 2011, over £1.65 million was paid to them via a client account controlled by County West Commercial Services.

However, the High Court ruled that this money was taken from Inn Take “for no consideration on the pretext that they would pay creditors who were never, in fact, paid”.

On 11 December 2018, the Secretary of State accepted a disqualification undertaking from Paul Manley, after he did not dispute that he caused County West Commercial Services to be a knowing party to the carrying on of a client’s business with the intent to defraud creditors. His ban is effective from 1 January 2019 and lasts for 12 years.

David Brooks, Chief Investigator for the Insolvency Service, said “In this serious case, Paul Manley operated his company’s client account as an “informal escrow” facility without proper regulatory permissions and with full knowledge of the reputations of the individuals concerned.”

“Accountants and other advisers should be wary of allowing their firms to be utilised in this way, enabling clients to pass funds through their accounts.”