FIVE former directors of a collapsed printing firm appeared in court charged with cheating the taxman for more than eight years.

Anton Group, based in Christy Lane, Laindon, went into administration with the loss of more than 300 jobs earlier this year.

Stephen Knight, 65, of Perry Street, Billericay, John Knight, 72, of Glebe Road, Ramsden Bellhouse, Paul Murphy, 55, of Spring Elms Lane, Little Baddow, Phillip Sach, 51, of The Lintens, Sandon and Brian Thomas, 67, of The Marshes, in The Dengie, appeared at Westminster Magistrates’ Court.

The men are charged with “cheating the public revenue by Corporation Tax, Income Tax, VAT, National Insurance and PAYE Contributions” between April 2004 and November 2012.

They were not able to enter a plea at the lower court because the charges are too serious. They were bailed to appear at Southwark Crown Court on July 27.

All five resigned as directors of Anton Group on October 1, 2014, when the company was sold to the Anton Employee Ownership Trust (AEOT) for £14.3million.

In March, the Echo revealed hundreds of jobs were at risk as the firm slid into administration.

At the time, administrators Deloitte said: “The business has been struggling financially in recent months as a result of declining sales, a high cost base in need of restructure and an acquisition of a business called Merchandise 365 last year in an attempt to expand operations, which has instead incurred further losses.

“The business had been seeking further investment to support ongoing trading. However, this was unsuccessful and therefore the directors had no alternative but to place the company into administration. The group will now be placed into an orderly wind-down, while talks are ongoing with potential buyers for the contracts and assets of the group.”

Since then, the firm made three rounds of redundancies and placed the firm’s assets up for sale.