Former hotel chief faces charges

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The Independent Online
SHIRAZ KASSAM, a bankrupt businessman whose companies owe pounds 140m to banks and building societies, was yesterday charged with obtaining nearly pounds 2.8m by deception after an investigation by the Serious Fraud Office, writes Paul Durman.

Mr Kassam, who used to run the Baron hotels group, was arrested at Heathrow airport on Sunday on his return from Portugal, where he had been living.

He was remanded in custody by Bow Street Magistrates' Court until next Tuesday.

He is accused of having lied to obtain an increased overdraft from the Bank of Credit and Commerce International, which is also the subject of a huge fraud investigation by the SFO. The Metropolitan Police are helping with the investigation into Baron Group.

Mr Kassam, 45, faces five similar charges of obtaining an increased overdraft for Baron Hotels & Leisure between May and August 1990. Each charge accuses him of falsely claiming to have dismissed SKF Architects from building works at the Spider's Web Hotel in Watford, and to have appointed instead Roger Smith, of Roger Smith Office of Building Design.

All five charges also accuse Mr Kassam of falsely claiming that Baron Hotels & Leisure had to pay various sums, together totalling pounds 12.7m, to a firm called H Peel Ltd.

The amounts due range from pounds 354,000 for furniture to pounds 2.9m for works done.

The increases to Baron Hotel's overdraft range from pounds 432,000 to pounds 694,000.