As accusations of misconduct swirl around government – from Nadhim Zahawi’s tax fine to Rishi’s seatbelt slip-up – Guido can perhaps illuminate another instance of Prime Ministerial impropriety. Following previous revelations that Kuti Miah, the restaurateur who gave Rishi the “best training I’ve ever had”, repeatedly liquidated his restaurant’s companies and didn’t adequately distribute furlough cash to workers, Guido has been looking more closely at Sunak’s story.
The PM has described his time with Kuti as his “first job” as other reports say the PM worked for “pocket money”. Kuti, meanwhile, is quoted as saying Rishi worked shifts “for fun”. It’s understandable why the restaurateur might want to deflect attention from his payment practices…
A number of Kuti’s former staff allege that he often paid cash in hand. In a public Facebook comment, one worker claims they were paid off the books. The practise is contextualised by the following charge that they, and three of their colleagues, are still owed over £7,700 collectively.
Another confirmed to Guido that Kuti switched their payments to cash in hand during the pandemic, whilst other colleagues were perpetually paid off the books. Rishi said his curry house experience gave him an “appreciation of business and the importance of treating people fairly”. Kuti’s employees might have something to say about that.
As public finances buckle, treasury coffers could do with all the contributions they can get. It begs the obvious question, was Rishi paid cash in hand?
After Guido first revealed that Rishi’s former curry house employer was experiencing tough times, and then that these might not be entirely unusual for its owner, Guido can now reveal yet more of Kuti Miah’s dubious business dealings.
Rishi’s ex-boss, mentor and family friend came off well from the former Chancellor’s covid support. Kuti’s Brasserie put staff on furlough, accepting Rishi’s state subsidy, and yet conveniently failed to pass on this windfall to its employees. Kuti has form for not paying staff what was due to them. At an employment tribunal Kuti was forced to repay over £2,200 to one claimant over unpaid holiday pay:
Others weren’t so lucky, a former staff member says that:
“[Neither] me nor any of my colleagues got paid furlough, and if we did it would total something silly like £80 a month”.
The resulting financial hardship forced them into another job…
Kuti’s furlough funds came on top of £40,000 in covid loans that weren’t repaid after one of the many iterations of his restaurant’s company liquidated. If Rishi really wants the government to get to grips with wasted taxpayer covid cash, he might want to look a little closer to home.
To make matters worse, Kuti’s covid payments didn’t even stop him from flouting the rules. His restaurant was issued a fixed penalty notice for staying open during the pandemic.
On Tuesday, Guido revealed the troubled fortunes of Rishi Sunak’s former restaurant employer. The proprietor, one Kuti Miah, enjoyed his fifteen minutes of fame, bragging to the press about how he’s “known Rishi since he was a little baby… he grew up in front of me”. While Kuti might want to associate himself so closely with the PM, it’s unlikely Rishi would want the same…
Considering Rishi’s financial acumen it is surprising that the person who trained him to make “the sums add up” has a troubled track record of financial mismanagement and tax offences. In addition to the liquidation in 2022, where the restaurant owed creditors £830,000, it had previously filed for liquidation in 2020. MRK 94 Ltd, trading as Kuti’s Brasserie, previously went bust owing £888,000. In 2020 they owed HMRC £338,214, in 2022 this was £346,267.
At the time, MRK 94 Ltd was under the directorship of Amran Miah, not Kuti, although a “Mr K Miah” was listed amongst their creditors. Despite the financial hardship, the situation could have been even worse. The company filed for liquidation with £40,000 in covid loans. Even Rishi’s state subsidies couldn’t save his treasured training ground.
Though aficionados of South coast curry houses should fear not. Kuti’s Brasserie is back trading, this time as KZCA Ltd, and again under a new director. When the liquidated tax bills are taken with council and covid loans, Rishi’s former restaurant has cost taxpayers over £830,000…
At November’s Lord Mayor’s banquet, Rishi Sunak spoke warmly about his time working in hospitality in Southampton, joking that it set him up for a life at the top of politics, “juggling lots of plates, dealing with some tricky customers, making the sums add up”. He added, “The thing I’ve learned about being Prime Minister was the best training I ever had was working in a curry house”…
In an unfortunate metaphor for Rishi, however, Guido can reveal that just two weeks after he praised his experience as a waiter – his old workplace of Kuti’s Brasserie in Southampton – went into liquidation.
Earlier in November, Rishi’s former boss, Kuti Miah, told Australian TV that he wasn’t sure how much longer he could keep the restaurant running given current economic circumstances:
“Times are tough at [Rishi’s] old workplace… rising prices have made it difficult for this place to break even. In 42 years this is the hardest time I’ve gone through.”
Despite speaking warmly about his former employee – describing Rishi as “a very nice boy. Very, very talented” – it seems Rishi’s captaining of the economy could not save the restaurant.
According to Company’s House, Joytun Bari Limited – which traded as Kuti’s Brasserie – applied for the appointment of liquidators on December 13, and three days later an ordinary resolution was made “That the Company be wound up voluntarily.”
Fingers crossed Rishi’s current bosses – the electorate – fare financially better in the future than his former bosses…