Administrators put Hotcha’s assets up for sale after £35m money laundering probe

Administrators are hoping to find a buyer for the assets of Chinese takeaway Hotcha following its dramatic collapse in the wake of a £35m money laundering operation.

Moorfields Advisory Limited was brought in last week to try and sell all or part of its assets after the group stopped trading.

Hotcha operated a Chinese takeaway chain which was incepted and predominantly based in the south west, but which was pursuing a national growth strategy.

The chain has a head office in Bristol which acts as a warehouse, central kitchen and group administration function and is capable of supporting up to 75 outlets.

Moorfields is seeking a purchaser for all or some of the company’s assets, which consist of a portfolio of leasehold properties, commercial catering equipment and office equipment and intellectual property, including website domain names and the ‘Hotcha’ registered trademark.

Simon Thomas, joint administrator, stated: “Notwithstanding Hotcha’s failure, the infrastructure that has been developed and is available for acquisition presents a unique opportunity for either a new or an established restaurant or takeaway business to develop its growth ambitions.”

Earlier this month, Hotcha was publicly linked to an HMRC investigation into a suspected £35m tax fraud and money laundering.

Seven men and three women were arrested as part of the probe, which saw more than 80 officers from HMRC search three private and 12 business addresses in Bath, Bournemouth, Bristol, Berkshire, Exeter, Stroud, Swindon and Yate. Computers and business records were seized during the operation.

Those arrested were interviewed by HMRC and have been released under investigation. Investigations are continuing.

Colin Spinks, assistant director, Fraud Investigation Service, HMRC, said: “Tax fraud is often thought victimless but it isn’t; the public lose out on vital funds for essential services.”

Hotcha had previously described its aspirations of becoming the ‘Domino’s Pizza of the Chinese takeaway world’ by embarking on an aggressive franchise strategy.

Bosses claimed that the average franchised Hotcha store should be generating revenues of up to £500,000 per annum with a gross profit margin of 70% to 75%, offering a “very good return” on a franchise fee of £180,000.

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