Crackdown on US candy stores in the UK
Councils around the country are cracking down on so called American Candy shops, in the belief that they are being used for tax dodging. Earlier this year, Trading Standards seized a huge haul of goods to the value of £22,000 from one shop on London’s Oxford Street alone.
The main products seized, along with chocolate bars and sweets, were disposable vapes, counterfeit Rolex watches, iPods and hoodies.
Westminster Council alone has seized counterfeit and illegal goods amounting to around £574,000 from such stores since they began their raids.
Central London is a favoured spot for these shops, although they are situated in every city in the UK that attracts tourists.
There are at least ten candy stores between Marble Arch and Tottenham Court Road tube stations alone, equating to roughly one every 200 yards.
As a result, Westminster Council has started a £7.9million tax scam investigation into the themed shops in their jurisdiction.
The leader of Westminster Council, Adam Hug, said that some of these stores have been using TikTok, Instagram and YouTube to lure children in to buy products, leading the shops to be dubbed ‘the modern-day child catcher’.
This trend for selling to children is worrying, as the stores are exploiting a loophole that means imported US chocolates and candy do not face the same restrictions on sugar content as UK-made products.
In addition to the threat to children, councils are concerned about a purported tactic, whereby criminals using a single store name set up numerous limited companies to serve as its legal owner, before closing the companies before them being liable for business rates.
In fact, two companies that share directors with Kingdom of Sweets Limited (named in the media as being part of this scam) have already been wound up owing £2 million in rates. Mr Hug went on to say that there needs to be greater transparency in company ownership.
Helen Gregory, Forensic Director at Milsted Langdon, said: “There are growing concerns about the legitimacy of these shops, both from a tax perspective and regarding concerns about their use within wider organised crime.
“Allegations have been put to a number of these stores about their potential involvement in money laundering.
“How they seem to operate is likely to raise questions for local authorities and other law enforcement agencies, many of whom rely on the services of forensic accountants to expose financial impropriety and criminality.”
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