A BROKE businessman appeared in court for an unpaid VAT tax bill.

Behnam Samandi was told he owed as much as £60,000 to HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) for the Third Avenue Restaurant in Hove.

He did not pay the security payment, but carried on trading.

It was revealed Mr Samandi, 55, of Connaught Road, Hove, has been struggling to keep his other businesses afloat.

This week, he still owed HMRC more than £14,000 of the VAT to allow the business to keep operating.

At Brighton Magistrates’ Court his lawyer Cameron Scott said the Third Avenue restaurant is “effectively in administration”.

The business is still open because he reached a voluntary agreement with creditors.

Mr Samandi has also made a voluntary agreement for the No32 bar in Duke Street.

His alcohol and restaurant licence for the venue was suspended in June.

Both venues are still open after Mr Samandi's financial troubles.

Mr Scott said: “He has tried very hard, and has shown empathy for the staff and people involved.

“Mr Samandi has employed some of his own family members in his business ventures.

“He has suffered with hypertension and stress, and chest pain. He is not in good health, hugely due to the stress of the situation.

“With the stress and strains he has tried to keep the businesses going.

"This, I would suggest, is a sign of a man who is just about to run out of control.

“He has tried to remedy the situation, but has simply not been able to.”

Mr Scott said the restaurant environment has changed and business has become difficult for Mr Samandi.

It was revealed he also has huge personal debts which have had a huge impact on Mr Samandi's health.

Paul Lamb, prosecuting, said HMRC first wrote to Mr Samandi in May last year, outlining a demand for a VAT security payment to allow the business to keep operating.

There were talks between the tax office, Mr Samandi, and his accountant, who lost their appeal against the order.

The sum was not paid, so HMRC decided to prosecute. 

“No payments were forthcoming,” Mr Lamb said.

Magistrate Michael Sandeman was told that Mr Samandi has no previous convictions and has not been under investigation for any similar offences in the past.

He ordered the businessman to pay a £6,500 fine with £40 costs and a £170 surcharge, and imposed the same fine against Third Avenue as a business.