Heston Blumenthal calls for urgency tackling fraud

Up to 9,750 restaurants could be targeted if action is not accelerated warns letter to Companies House chief executive.

Restaurateur and chef Heston Blumenthal OBE is calling for greater urgency in tackling fraud on Companies House after an investigation revealed more than 750 fake firms using restaurant names have been set up in the past six weeks.

His business was one of those targeted and he is writing to Louise Smyth, Chief Executive at Companies House and Registrar for England and Wales, asking for greater transparency on how her organisation is tackling the issue.

Experts are warning that action against fraudsters damaging the reputations and legacy of a wide range of restaurants could take as long as 18 months. Heston Blumenthal is asking for a faster response from Companies House to help the restaurant industry which is already struggling with the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic and the cost-of-living crisis.

The celebrity chef and entrepreneur whose restaurants include the world-famous three Michelin Star Fat Duck, the Michelin starred Hind’s Head, the Two Michelin star Dinner by Heston Blumenthal and the Perfectionists’ Café estimates that failing to move swiftly could lead to as many as 9,750 restaurants being victims over an 18-month period.

Heston's statement

Heston Blumenthal said: “I am grateful this issue has been highlighted and am confident Companies House will do it all it can to support businesses with tackling what is a long-running problem. Our legal team has been scanning the Companies Register for years and has regularly needed to notify Companies House of bogus companies claiming to be to be part of our group.

He emphasises that “The process for removing fake companies has to be speeded up and made easier. We need greater transparency from Companies House and a clear timeline. In some cases, it is being reported it can take up to 18 months to rectify. Checks by Companies House on the identity of people registering companies would reduce the risk of frauds and be a major help for restaurants and other businesses facing up to problems with fraudsters.”

Fraudsters targeting restaurants register company names at Companies House usually by applying for registration with slightly different or misspelled names. They then apply for bank accounts and finance in that name and can then target suppliers and potential diners. In some cases, restaurant owners have been targeted by other scammers trying to charge them for amending fake details.

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