Scots businessman whose firm won government Covid-19 contract disqualified over £1.1m in unpaid taxes

A Scots businessman whose firm secured a UK Government contract to help with food and medicine deliveries during the pandemic has been disqualified as a director for four years after failing to pay more than £1.1 million in taxes.

Liam Mccreadie ran two “state-of-the-art” call centres based in East Kilbride and Newcastle, which boasted of providing a “world-class” service for blue chip companies around the world. But an investigation by a UK Government agency found his firms had failed to submit tax returns before going into liquidation.

The companies traded as AGO Outsourcing, billed as a “leading provider of outsourced business services”, ranging from customer service to social media engagement. However, they have been embroiled in controversy in recent years.

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During the pandemic, AGO was subcontracted by Serco on behalf of the UK Government. The contract involved assisting people shielding in England, and helping to co-ordinate deliveries of vital goods. But the deal was terminated by Serco in June 2020 after images emerged of working conditions in AGO’s East Kilbride call centre that fell foul of social distancing rules.

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AGO was also heavily criticised by former staff members over how they lost their jobs. It is understood more than a dozen former employees have taken their cases to employment tribunals. Four claimants were among around 20 employees who were laid off in September 2019 with no notice or consultation. Tribunal judges later found in their favour.

Now an investigation by the Insolvency Service, an executive agency of the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, has laid bare the amount of tax that Mccreadie’s firms failed to pay.

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The 26-year-old incorporated his first firm, Lakemere Global Holdings Ltd, in October 2017. It traded as AGO Outsourcing, but at the time of its liquidation in October 2019, it owed £794,000.

Only a month before Lakemere’s collapse, Mccreadie incorporated another firm, EK Sales Ltd. It took over trading as AGO Outsourcing. However, it too went into liquidation in October 2020, with debts of £515,000.

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Liam Mccreadie's firm was subcontracted by Serco on behalf of the UK government to help people shielding during the pandemic. Picture: Pavlo / Adobe Stock

The liquidation of the two companies led to an investigation by the Insolvency Service. It found Lakemere had not submitted tax returns between May and October 2019, and owed business and employee-related tax of around £629,000. EK Sales Ltd, the service added, failed to submit tax returns between December 2019 and August 2020. It owed business and employee-related tax of around £513,000.

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Across both companies, the repeat abuse of tax led to a debt to HM Revenue and Customs of more than £1,143,000. The secretary of state for business, energy and industrial strategy accepted a disqualification undertaking from Mccreadie, who did not dispute he had failed to ensure both companies submitted returns and payment to HMRC.

Steven McGinty, investigation manager at the Insolvency Service, said: “The Insolvency Service will rigorously pursue traders who seek an unfair advantage over their competitors by not paying tax to the Government.

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“If you run a limited company, you have statutory protections as well as obligations. If you fail to comply with your obligations, the Insolvency Service will investigate you and you could lose the protection of limited liability.

“Mr Mccreadie has paid the price for failing to do that, as he cannot now carry on in business other than at his own risk.”

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