County Durham business dissolved day after director got £25,000 Covid Bounce Back loan

Ben Hamilton submitted paperwork to dissolve his company Netelco on the day after receiving a £25,000 Bounce Back loan Credit: PA

The director of a County Durham firm has appeared in court after abusing a Covid support scheme by dissolving his business on the day after he received a £25,000 loan.

Ben Hamilton, from Middlesbrough, was director of Bishop Auckland-based Netelco Ltd, a telecommunications design and installation business.

The 34-year-old applied for a £25,000 Bounce Back loan in May 2020 on behalf of his business, which was incorporated in 2018.

The money was paid to the company on 14 May 2020 and the following day Hamilton filed paperwork with Companies House to have the business dissolved.

He has since repaid the loan following an investigation by the Insolvency Agency.

Julie Barnes, chief investigator at the Insolvency Service said: "This was a clear case of attempted fraud by a company director who thought he could abuse the Covid-19 financial support schemes and get away with it.

"Even though Ben Hamilton has now repaid the loan, this sentence sends a clear warning to others that attempting to defraud taxpayers is not acceptable, and when prosecuting the Insolvency Service will use all of the tools in its armoury, including the Proceeds of Crime Act, to prevent criminals from retaining their benefit from crime."

The Insolvency Agency said Hamilton had now followed rules around making a striking-off application, including that interested parties and creditors should be notified within seven days.

The company was dissolved in December 2020, and was subsequently identified as likely Bounce Back Loan fraud as part of the government’s counter-fraud work.

The Insolvency Service said Hamilton did not co-operate with the criminal investigation team and did not attend an interview.

After a restraining order on his bank accounts was secured, he engaged with the investigation and repaid the loan in full.

He pleaded guilty to charges under the Companies Act 2006 at Teeside Magistrate’s Court on 14 October and was sentenced at the same court on 15 November.

He was given a 15-month prison sentence, suspended for 18 months and was ordered to pay £2,500 in costs.

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