‘Scam to sell the Ritz for £250m’

Pair duped in fan­tasy plot, court is told

Daily Mail - - Life - By Beth Hale

THE chance to buy The Ritz for a ‘ bar­gain’ £250mil­lion sounded too good to be true – and was, a court heard yes­ter­day.

But two busi­ness­men were duped into hand­ing over a £1mil­lion ad­vance for the world fa­mous ho­tel in Pic­cadilly in a trans­ac­tion that was founded on ‘one great big lie’, the jury was told.

It was in fact worth be­tween £450mil­lion and £600mil­lion at the time and the men of­fer­ing to sell it were in no po­si­tion to do so, Anuja Dhir QC, pros­e­cut­ing, said. ‘The deal that sounded too good to be true was a com­plete fan­tasy,’ she added.

She de­scribed how so­lic­i­tor Conn Far­rell, re­tired con­tracts man­ager Pa­trick Dolan and lorry driver An­thony Lee se­lected Ter­ence

‘One great big lie’

Collins, who had a Dutch fi­nan­cial backer Mar­cel Bo­erkhoorn, as their ‘mark’ for the scam in 2006.

‘They promised their tar­gets the op­por­tu­nity to buy The Ritz ho­tel and casino in Pic­cadilly for the bar­gain price of £250mil­lion,’ Miss Dhir said. ‘They didn’t have the abil­ity or the in­ten­tion to ful­fil that prom­ise.

‘As the ne­go­ti­a­tions pro­gressed they sucked their vic­tims in with more false prom­ises and frus­trated them with un­nec­es­sary re­quests un­til they man­aged to ex­tract from them a pay­ment of £1mil­lion.’

The deal, co­de­named Project Not­ting Hill, was tar­geted to at­tract those deal­ing in the high stakes of ‘tro­phy prop­er­ties’, she said.

‘In that com­pet­i­tive world of se­cre­tive multi-mil­lion pound deals some peo­ple are pre­pared to take risks that might seem breath­tak­ing to most of us,’ she told South­wark Crown Court in London. ‘Mil­lions of pounds can be made and lost on trans­ac­tions for tro­phy prop­er­ties like The Ritz. What sets this trans­ac­tion apart from most is that it was all based on one great big lie. The de­fen­dants were never in a po­si­tion to be able to sell The Ritz.’

The court heard that Lee claimed to be a ‘close friend and work­ing as­so­ci­ate’ of the bil­lion­aire twin broth­ers Sir Fred­er­ick and Sir David Bar­clay who own the ho­tel. Lee and Dolan pre­tended they could ar­range its sale. Far­rell, a part­ner with law firm Far­rell, Martin & Nee, added a ‘ve­neer of le­git­i­macy’ to the scheme, Miss Dhir said.

Mr Collins, of a prop­erty and in­vest­ment com­pany called London Al­lied Hold­ings, was put in touch with Lee through a ‘mid­dle man’, Karen Maguire, the court was told.

She spe­cialised in find­ing prop­erty for pri­vate clients and had been told by Lee that he had ac­cess to a con­tract to pur­chase The Ritz for £200mil­lion. He told her he in­tended to sell it on for £250mil­lion, the court was told. In De­cem- ber 2006, £1mil­lion was paid into an Ir­ish bank in Lee’s name by a com­pany owned by Mr Bo­erkhoorn.

He and Mr Collins had been led to be­lieve that once the pay­ment was made, con­tracts for the sale would be sent by Far­rell to lawyers act­ing for Mr Collins, said Miss Dhir. But no con­tracts or other le­gal doc­u­men­ta­tion were forth­com­ing.

Far­rell, 57, of Alder­shot, Hamp­shire, Dolan, 68, of Tot­ten­ham, North London and Lee, 49, of Beal, Goole, East York­shire, deny con­spir­acy to de­fraud. The trial con­tin­ues.

World fa­mous: The Ritz was said to be worth up to £600mil­lion at the time

Ac­cused: An­thony Lee

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