A letting agency boss who claimed multiple loans totalling £100,000 from two different banks, and attempted to claim a further £50,000 through the Bounce Back Loan initiative has been given an 11-year ban for abusing the scheme.
Laszlo Szabo, 49 of London, was the sole director of Letting Base Ltd, which was incorporated in 2009 and traded as a letting agency on Holloway Road until it went into liquidation in January 2022.
In October 2020, Szabo applied for a Bounce Back Loan of £38,000 to support his business, which had formerly traded as Hungarian Lettings Ltd. The company received the loan money the following day.
Bounce Back Loans were a government scheme to help keep businesses afloat during the Covid-19 pandemic, whereby companies could apply for loans of up to 25% of their 2019 turnover, up to a maximum of £50,000.
Under the rules of the scheme, businesses could only take out one loan, although they were permitted to apply for a top-up if the original loan was less than the maximum to which they were entitled.
Yet five days after applying for the first loan, Szabo applied for another Bounce Back Loan of £50,000 for Letting Base Ltd, this time from a different bank. And 10 days after this, he applied for a £12,000 top-up to the first Bounce Back Loan, taking the total borrowed through the scheme up to £100,000.
The following day he returned to the second bank, seeking a further top-up of £50,000 to the second Bounce Back Loan. This time the application was rejected.
Letting Base Ltd went into liquidation in 2022 owing more than £243,000, including the full £100,000 of the Bounce Back Loan money, triggering an investigation by the Insolvency Service.
Investigators discovered that Szabo had made the four separate applications for Bounce Back Loans and top-ups, despite signing a declaration each time confirming it was his only application, and that Letting Base Ltd was entitled to the money he was applying for.
On 21 November 2022 the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy accepted a disqualification undertaking from Laszlo Szabo after he did not dispute that he had misused the Bounce Back Loan scheme by claiming money to which his business was not entitled.
His ban lasts for 11 years and began on 12 December 2022. The disqualification prevents him from directly or indirectly becoming involved in the promotion, formation or management of a company, without the permission of the court.
Due to Szabo’s personal circumstances, it is unlikely that repayment of the Bounce Back Loans will be made.
Nina Cassar, deputy head of investigations at the Insolvency Service, said: “The Bounce Back Loan scheme was set up to support businesses in genuine need during the COVID-19 pandemic, and the terms of the scheme were widely publicised to make clear that directors were required to self-certify their eligibility for support.
“Laszlo Szabo made false declarations to his company’s banks, and then entered liquidation having made no repayments towards its Bounce Back Loans, which resulted in a loss of £100,000 of public funds.
“His blatant and repeat abuse of taxpayer’s money has resulted in a lengthy disqualification, which will serve to safeguard the economy from traders who exploit financial support packages designed to help UK businesses.”
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