AN "EXPERIENCED" landlord failed to register his business for VAT after his pub started "struggling" financially.

Russell Mark Donald was running the former The Foresters Oaks pub in Llandevaud, east of Newport, when he failed to pay £79,000 in tax between December 2015 and 2017.

The 61-year-old had his "back against the wall" and "desperately" wanted to leave the business when he made the "intentional act" to avoid registering with the taxman.

Last month, Donald was found guilty by a jury of once count of committing fraudulent evasion of value-added tax (VAT), and today, Friday, appeared before Cardiff Crown Court for sentencing.

There, the judge told him he was "always going to be found out" and a specialist department of tax inspectors had been set up to monitor firms who stopped paying VAT.

He described Donald as "an experienced landlord and an experienced businessman" with 40 years in the hospitality trade.

But the Foresters Oaks was "struggling" and Donald "wanted to leave the business".

"Your back was against the wall but you weren't allowed to leave the business, because of pressure being put on you by the brewery," the judge, Recorder Shomon Khan, told him.

The pub's turnover, however, was "well in excess of the VAT threshold and you knew that", the judge added.

Pete Donnison, defending, said Donald had no relevant previous convictions and had taken "desperate measures".

The defendant had been "caught between a rock and a hard place" and had "lost a large amount" of his own money, including moving to a smaller house and giving up his "nice" car.

Mr Donnison also said "none of the VAT money was in fact taken out of the business" by Donald, who was "trying to get out" of the firm.

The judge told the defendant the decision on whether to send him to prison was "finely balanced".

"Decent honest people and honest businesses are struggling financially, but they pay their VAT," he told Donald, adding that a jail sentence would also act as a "deterrent" to would-be fraudsters.

But he noted there was "no personal motivation in terms of financial gain" and Donald's apparent motive had been "for the business to survive".

A probation service report noted a strong prospect of rehabilitation, and character references described Donald's offending as "out of character and out of desperation", the court heard, while "medical difficulties contributed to [his] poor decision-making".

“I’m confident you will never commit an offence again,” the judge told Donald as he sat in the dock.

He gave Donald, of Ffordd Bevan, Pontrhydyrun, a 12-month prison sentence, suspended for 18 months.

Donald must also complete 10 days of rehabilitation activities and is subject to a curfew for the next three months.

The Foresters Oaks is no longer running as a pub, and the premises is now a restaurant, which is not connected to the previous business.