England: Property directors and scaffolder banned by Insolvency Service

Two property directors who abused millions of investor funds and a scaffolder who disposed of assets prior to bankruptcy have all been banned by the Insolvency Service.

Sanjiv Varma (57) and Jonathan England (48), both directors of property firm Grosvenor Property Developers Ltd, were banned for a total of 25 years after abusing £7.7 million taken from investors for student accommodation never completed.

The company sold student accommodation in Bristol off-plan and collected more than £7.7m from investors between February 2017 and January 2018.

The student accommodation, however, was never completed by Grosvenor Property Developments and investors applied for the liquidation of the company in November 2018.

Grosvenor Property Developers was wound-up in court on 14 November 2018 and the Official Receiver was appointed as liquidator, which triggered investigations into the conduct of the directors of the property firm.

Enquiries established that funds were diverted into accounts belonging to or companies connected to Sanjiv Varma. A total of £3.1m was paid to another company in Dubai also owned by the director.

Sanjiv Varma used at least £1.3m to fund travel, gifts and designer clothing.

Investigators also found that planning permission was never applied for and titles to the property were never acquired by Grosvenor Property Developers.

Sanjiv Varma has been banned as a company director for 13 years, while his fellow director, Jonathan England, has been disqualified for 12 years.

In their undertakings to the Secretary of State, the directors did not dispute that they caused and/or allowed Grosvenor Property Developers Ltd to misappropriate investor deposits of more than £6.5m.

Both bans were effective from 22 February 2021 and the pair are banned from directly or indirectly becoming involved, without the permission of the court, in the promotion, formation or management of a company.

Karen Maxwell, deputy chief investigator at the Insolvency Service, said: “Sanjiv Varma and Jonathan England fabricated an extensive renovation project to create student accommodation in Bristol, taking large deposits from investors with the promise of a high quality asset.

“Instead, Sanjiv Varma took millions from the company and Jonathan England did nothing to stop his co-director from spending their funds on international flights and designer clothing. Both have now been disqualified as company directors for a significant time period.”

Meanwhile, a Warwickshire scaffolder was banned for four years after recklessly spending £142,000 prior to bankruptcy to avoid paying creditors.

Colin Gerrard Taylor (47), from Kenilworth, was the director of Godiva Environmental Solutions Ltd, a scaffolding company based in Coventry.

The company ceased trading in May 2020 after suffering financial difficulties and was voluntarily wound up in June 2020.

Colin Taylor, however, was liable for personal guarantees he had given against company debts but could not repay them. The scaffolder applied for his own bankruptcy in July 2020 declaring debts totalling more than £1.8m.

As Trustee of Colin Taylor’s bankruptcy, the Official Receiver investigated the scaffolder’s affairs and found that, prior to his bankruptcy, Colin Taylor made substantial cash withdrawals.

From February 2020 until his bankruptcy in July 2020, Colin Taylor paid £77,500 to an unlicensed money lender, more than £60,000 was transferred to family members and he lost £5,000 gambling.

Bankrupts are usually put under restrictions for 12 months. But due to Colin Taylor’s spending prior to his bankruptcy, the Official Receiver determined that the scaffolder was a risk to future creditors and sought to apply for additional restrictions.

Following the investigation, Colin Taylor signed a bankruptcy restriction undertaking acknowledging that he entered into transactions, whilst insolvent, which were to the detriment of his creditors. The undertaking came into effect on 3 March 2021 and for 4 years he is subject to further restrictions, including being banned from becoming a company director or managing a company and not borrowing more than £500 without informing the lender of his BRU.

Karen Fox, deputy official receiver at the Insolvency Service, said: “Colin Taylor owed £1.8m at the time of his bankruptcy but despite this, he spent significant funds on family members, gambling and paying an illegal money lender.

“His reckless actions denied his creditors money he owed them. This type of behaviour is totally unacceptable and we will not hesitate to take further action against bankrupts who do not treat their creditors fairly.”

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