BOSSES TO BE QUIZZED OVER PROPERTY FIRM'S DEBTS
DEAL MAKER: Sean Woodall
By Ted Jeory
THE problems at Worldwide Destinations echo the suspected scam at Ocean View Properties, another company exposed by the Sunday Express which also involved Sean Woodhall.
A judge last month ordered Ocean View, which sold off-plan homes on Spain’s Costa del Sol, to be wound up after
administrators failed to save the company.
The Insolvency Service will now interview all directors about how the company failed.
Importantly, it will ask them to explain all transactions since accounts were last filed in 2007, when it owed more than
£100million to customers, to the point of going into administration in January when they said they owed £3million.
Investigators will also talk to their counterparts in Spain if necessary, the Insolvency Service said. The investigation could take several months. The official receiver is preparing letters to creditors and is urging anyone who believes they are owed money to contact him.
Police are continuing their own inquiry into what happened. Offi cers from Staffordshire have been sifting through complaints from customers, including two from detectives in South Wales.
A spokesman for Staffordshire police said they would be talking to colleagues from the specialist City of London fraud squad to “establish who will have primacy over the investigation”.
Ocean View was set up in 2001, the year Woodhall was convicted of an advertising fraud in Birmingham.
Woodhall acted as the company’s deal maker in Spain until 2005, when he fell out with other bosses and went on to set up Worldwide Destinations.
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PLEASE HELP ME. I’M LOCKED UP OVER PROPERTY CON BUT I DID NOTHING WRONG
MISSING: Sean Woodhall
By Ted Jeory
A BRITISH businessman is being held in an Egyptian jail after being arrested in connection with a suspected multi-million pound property fraud.
Peter Morris, 46, has been locked in a filthy cell for five weeks after Egyptian authorities said he was behind an international scam involving Sean Woodhall, a convicted conman who went missing in a mysterious plane crash in Brazil last year.
Mr Morris became the sole director of Worldwide Destinations, a property company owned by the Woodhall family, in February following a request from administrators.
He pleaded last night: “Please help me. It is killing me to be in here. I have committed no crime.”
During the past three years, the company based in Cambridgeshire has sold hundreds of off-plan apartments to British investors in the Red Sea resort of Hurghada.
Some 300 investors paid an average of £40,000 as deposits, but the builders El Riad claim that more than £2million of the money failed to reach them and is now refusing to hand over any keys until it has been paid.
El Riad invited Mr Morris to Egypt for negotiations last month, but soon after touching down he was arrested and accused of fraud.
Mr Morris, who shares a cell with 50 others, including alleged murderers, claims he was entrapped.
Woodhall, 43, received an 18-month suspended sentence in 2001 for an advertising fraud in Birmingham.
Worldwide Destinations foundered and half-brother Mark Lovelock ran Worldwide, but revenues dried up.
When clients started complaining about problems completing their deals, Mr Morris was asked to help by Grant Thornton administrators.
After five weeks’ sleeping on a cell floor and sharing one toilet with 50 other inmates, Mr Morris is in poor health.
Yet no formal charges have been made. He said: “I only came out here to try to help people who were having problems with their properties and I ended up being arrested.”
His wife Helen, 36, and daughter Danni, 11, are anxiously waiting for news at their home in Great Cambourne, Cambridgeshire.
Mrs Morris, who has only had one two-minute phone call with her husband and an email in which he told her a visit would be too distressing, said: “We are both distraught.
“I just hope he holds it together out there and this all ends as quickly as possible.
“I just wish Peter had never got involved with the Woodhall family.”
Builders El Riad claim that Mr Morris, when he was Worldwide’s master agent, was not legally entitled to sign purchase contracts with British investors, but he insists he had full power of attorney from Sean Woodhall.
El Riad has now told hundreds of British customers that if they do not fly to Egypt to sign new contracts and pay “maintenance and legal costs” of £4,000, they risk losing their apartments.
Mohamed Hussein, a partner in El Riad, said: “I cannot understand why people who have paid around £40,000 for their apartments would not spend £400 on a plane fare to come and sort out the problem.
“I like the British and I want to do more business with them. I am trying to help these people. I have lost a lot of
money already because I have not been paid by them.”
Britons living in Wordwide Destinations’s Desert Pearl resort claim that El Riad has cut their power supplies.
They are also concerned that their properties were not “free of encumbrance”, as their contracts claimed, as the landowners had taken out a prior mortgage on the site, which now risks being called in.
Former printer Gary Barrett, 41, and his wife Kim, 40, of Romford, Essex, spent £35,000 on one apartment and £19,000 on a second, which is still under construction.
Kim said: “We were told out of the blue that the builder had padlocked the gates and changed the locks and that the apartment is no longer ours. The same is going to happen to the second.”
A Foreign Office spokesman said it has monitoring Mr Morris’s situation.
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