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Manager of Lennox Lewis in tax inquiry

LENNOX LEWIS'S business manager is at the centre of inquiries into missing tax and national insurance contributions at a college set up by the boxer to help underprivileged children.

Panos Eliades will be with Lewis tonight in New York as he bids to become the undisputed heavyweight champion of the world. At home, however, the manager's running of the college is the subject of inquiries by the Inland Revenue, the Department of Social Security (DSS) and the Institute of Chartered Accountants (ICA).

The Lennox Lewis College was opened in 1995 to help problem children in the East End of London, where Lewis was born. The boxer and Mr Eliades reportedly sank pounds 1m into the venture to help persistent criminal offenders, truants and children expelled from ordinary schools.

However, after three years of hand-to-mouth funding, the college closed last July and is now being used as a gym for professional, adult boxers.

Mr Eliades, an accountant, is being investigated by the ICA after complaints from

three former teachers at the

school who were made redundant only to find they could not claim benefits because their National Insurance contributions and income tax payments - which had been deducted from their wages at the college - had not been passed on to the authorities.

The institute confirmed yesterday that it was "actively investigating" Mr Eliades. Correspondence seen by The Independent shows that he is rejecting allegations of professional misconduct.

The college was run by Team Solo Ltd, of which Mr Eliades was the sole director. However, once the ICA began looking into the lecturers' complaints, Mr Eliades told the institute's investigator, Nigel Howell, that the college's staff were actually employed by another company - Team Solo Management Ltd - which was supposed to pay their salaries.

Bank records show that salaries for the 16 staff were indeed transferred from an account at Barclays in the name of Team Solo Management Ltd. Responsibility for wages rested with that company, said Mr Eliades, and he was not a shareholder in it. But the address to which bank statements for Team Solo Management were sent was: "Panos Eliades Ltd, 6 Bloomsbury Square, London." Mr Panos told the ICA: "I have been unable to locate any paperwork relating to payment of monies to the Inland Revenue."

Exactly how much money has gone astray is not known. The DSS has confirmed that a specialist unit is trying to locate the contributions made by staff.

Kevin Grice, 43, the former deputy principal of the college, is one of three teachers who won claims for unfair dismissal after being made redundant a year ago. He said: "At least five of the nine teachers have experienced similar problems with their tax and National Insurance contributions."

The college taught vocational subjects such as plumbing and music technology. Lewis, 33, who had himself been excluded from primary school, had little hands-on involvement.

Team Solo Management Ltd was wound up last June, while Mr Eliades' sports promotion company, Panix Promotions Ltd, which was underwriting the operation with Lewis, was running a pounds 666,000 deficit, according to accounts for 1998.

Panix's auditors, Lee Christian & Co, refused to pass these accounts because they felt Mr Eliades, an accountant, had not given them enough information.

A spokeswoman at Panos Eliades, Franklin & Co, Mr Eliades' insolvency practice, said that many false allegations had been made but he was "too busy" in New York to comment.