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People & Business: VAT and parties just don't mix

IT SEEMS even barristers can get on the wrong side of the law. I've just received a press notice from the National Investigation Service (NIS) of HM Customs & Excise that a practising barrister from Manchester was sentenced yesterday to six months imprisonment for fraudulently evading VAT.

The Customs notice says: "Richard Alan Quenby altered figures on his returns which had been supplied to him by his chambers' accountants.

"Officers from the NIS proved that the amount of VAT evaded over a nine- month period was pounds 8,500. Quenby pleaded not guilty to three charges at his trial at Leeds Crown Court, but after a four-day trial was found guilty on all charges."

The Customs notice concluded: "He claimed part of the reason for the error was that he must have completed the figures during the chambers' Christmas party."

AN INTRIGUING chap called Robert A Brawer, who has been a chief executive officer of the American Maidenform bra-making company and a professor of English literature, has now penned his own book, which sifts great literature for insights into management.

Fictions of Business claims to demonstrate how great novelists and playwrights "can provide unique guidance to business readers." It is certainly a refreshing change from the usual semi-literate, jargon-ridden business books which seem to proliferate these days.

Now you can put your feet up with a drink and read Anthony Trollope on railway speculation in the 19th century, or Geoffrey Chaucer on the idea of the "self-made man".

Mr Brawer quotes authors as diverse as James Thurber (on office politics), George Bernard Shaw and Joseph Heller (on believing the "corporate gospel").

The most striking chapter is on David Mamet and his terrifying play about stressed-out salesmen, Glengarry Glen Ross, a work which would put anyone off trying to sell anything.

I've no idea whether this tome will improve anyone's management skills, but its a good read. Fictions of Business will be published on 24 September by John Wiley & Sons, price pounds 17.99.

JUAN SOTOLONGO, a Cuban-born businessman, has just bought a "customer care" call centre in the City from AT&T, and his sights are set on more acquisitions in this expanding sector on the continent.

Mr Sotolongo was working as European director of engineering for UPS last year when he started researching the call centre sector. He then set up a company called 7C with Simon Philips of Bridgwater Management Consultancy and sold 40 per cent of the company to an investors' group. 7C announced yesterday that it had bought AT&T Solutions Customer Care.

"Our main customers are AT&T, Boots and Vodafone," says Mr Sotolongo, who claims London is a good place to recruit people with language skills - 7C deals with customer in over 15 countries.

So is the name 7C some pun on seven seas? "No, it was suggested by one of our staff. It stands for communication, consultancy, camaraderie, commitment, customer-centred and call centres."

Surely, the name therefore should be 8C - but who cares? VALERIE GORDON- WALKER has left her job as human resources director at Barclays Capital to do the same job at German investment banking rival Westdeutsche Landesbank Girozentrale (WestLB).

WestLB is growing from a comparatively small base in the City and now includes the Panmure Gordon stockbroking house, and Quorum, a fund manager which specialises in quantitative techniques.

Ms Gordon-Walker previously worked at The Merrett Group, Lloyd's underwriters, and Marks & Spencer. She is described by one former colleague as "extremely professional and thoroughly charming with it."

THE DIGITAL wars are hotting up and there is a distinctly political feel about them. BSkyB recently snapped up Tony Blair's spin doctor, Tim Allan, as its new head of corporate affairs. Not to be outdone, ONdigital, the snappily named terrestrial answer to digital satellite, has recruited a former John Major man as its head of media and public affairs.

Andrew Marre joins the Carlton-Granada consortium from the Department of Culture, Media and Sport where he was director of information.

His previous postings inside the Whitehall information machine include deputy press secretary to Mr Major, head of news at the DTI, and chief press officer at the old Department of Education and Science.

"I am delighted to join ONdigital at the dawn of the digital age," gushes its new recruit. "Digital terrestrial television is the most exciting development in television history."

That's one way of putting it. Others think the latest battle of the set- top boxes will be a bloodbath to rank alongside the scrap between Sky and British Satellite Broadcasting. We all know who won that one. Mr Marre has been around politicians long enough to know that losers are soon forgotten.