One reason why Sheikh Gulzar may have felt reluctant to attend his recent tax appeal hearing in Brighton, might be the short shrift given to his evidence when he last attended the court.  On that occasion, in September 2015, he represented himself and his son Sasha, as partners of the unincorporated business Lions Cub Nursery, before a different judge, Judge Richard Thomas.  They were appealing against VAT assessments amounting to around £80,000: and they failed.

A tied relationship: Lord Brett McLean with Sheikh Abid Gulzar

The facts in dispute are not of immediate interest.  What seems worth reporting, though, are findings the judge made in respect of the character of two of the witnesses before him: Mr Gulzar himself and Mr Manas Singh, who was then  manager of the Lions Hotel and who has appeared in recent weeks, to take a forward role in discussions relating to Hastings pier.

Of Mr Gulzar, Judge Thomas remarked that he: “did not impress us. This was not because of his general demeanour before the Tribunal which might best be described as exhibiting braggadocio. We will mention however that we were not amused by his offer, whether in jest or not, to give the HMRC officers a free stay in his hotels, and we would have been even less amused if we had not cut off what seemed to be an attempt to make the same offer to the Tribunal.

“He was also apparently subject to memory lapses but we put that down to age rather than selective memory (especially as Mr Singh was having to prompt him with answers in some cases). What particularly did not impress us was Mr Gulzar’s performance under cross-examination. To straightforward questions clearly admitting of only one answer
he would do anything, mostly embarking on speeches telling us for the umpteenth time of his business background and achievements, rather than give a straight answer….This meant that he did not engage at all with the documentary evidence that was put to him. We therefore do not accept Mr Gulzar’s evidence without there being clear independent documentary corroboration.”

Of his manager, the judge concluded: “We did not find Mr Singh a convincing witness. He was too ready to give an improbable explanation for anything that might tell against Mr Gulzar…Mr Singh had been, with our permission, priming Mr Gulzar with some of his answers, and it seemed to us that Mr Singh was not of a mind, or in a position, to say anything that would not be in line with the narrative that Mr Gulzar and he had put forward to HMRC and then the Tribunal.’ 

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