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Jail term for crooked aircon company boss

The Government should strengthen the vetting procedures relating to company directors, making it harder for corrupt individuals to operate after being declared bankrupt.

That call was made after 67-year-old Roy Harold Goss, from Cambridge, was convicted in Croydon Crown Court last week of 18 charges relating to the Insolvency Act 1986 and the Companies Director Disqualification Act 1986.

He was sentenced to four years and nine months imprisonment and disqualified from working as a director or in the management of a company for 10 years.

Mr Goss was declared bankrupt in 2000. Under UK law an undischarged bankrupt is prohibited from working as a company director or taking part in the “promotion, formation or management of a company”.

Despite this, Mr Goss continued to act as such, forging High Court Orders annulling his bankruptcy, which then allowed him to further acquire three air conditioning and water purification firms and five electrical contracting businesses.

Six of the eight firms went bust, with debts totalling £3 million.

Professor Nicholas Wilson, who holds a chair in credit management at Leeds University Business School and is the director of the Credit Management Research Centre, said the current laws and vetting procedures were not working.

“If a person can become a company director when they are not supposed to be it would appear that the vetting procedures and current laws are neither rigorous nor enough of a deterrent,” he said.

“It is easy to check whether an individual is on the Disqualified Directors Register (DDR), but if that person isn’t, then there is no way of knowing whether they are bankrupt or not.

“There’s also not much vetting of company directors,” he said. “The Government should consider a more stringent regime when a new company is set up and registered with Companies House.

'At the moment there are no checks other than checking against the DDR. It is up to the individuals involved to disclose the correct company information and that information is not verified by an independent third party.”

Intelligence services firm World-Check also described the vetting procedures as ‘lax’. Earlier this year its study of the UK public register of directors revealed that there were 1,500 disqualified directors on the register.

World-Check said its research exposed an apparent absence of vetting of who can and cannot register a business and become a company director in Britain.

A spokesman for the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform, rejected the charge. “The vetting procedures are sufficient. We also believe that both Acts are both robust and enforceable,” he said.

“In this case, there was a pattern of offending and various levels of deception which occurred over a long period of time.

“This successful prosecution shows that company directors who operate illegally will be brought to justice. The legislation exists for us to crack down on those who break the law. As can be seen in the case of Mr Goss, he was sentenced to over four years imprisonment.”

Rod Pettigrew, HVCA head of commercial and legal, advised worried firms to start checking against the credit reports offered by companies like Experian.

“If companies have additional concern, it is still worthwhile checking through the Directors Disqualification Register,” he said.