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GRE loans 'arranged with chief executive'

THE LEADING life insurance salesman who has cost Guardian Royal Exchange millions of pounds in bad debts has said he arranged the loans with Sid Hopkins, the insurer's chief executive, writes Paul Durman.

Speaking yesterday on BBC2's The Money Programme, Vinodchandra Manubhai Patel said Mr Hopkins would help if he wanted a mortgage - 'I would say: 'Sid, I want half a million in a month or two, would you be able to arrange it?' If he had got the funding he would arrange it for us.'

As the Independent revealed in March, Mr Patel had a close relationship with GRE's senior managers, who used to attend the parties he threw for clients of his north London firm, Unique Insurance Services.

GRE lent pounds 80m to Mr Patel's companies and associates, who used the money to buy hotels and other property in the late 1980s boom.

GRE yesterday reiterated its position that Mr Hopkins' responsibilities in the 1980s never gave him the power to authorise loans and he had no say in the advances made to Mr Patel. A GRE spokesman suggested Mr Patel may have misunderstood the company's internal procedures.

Melvyn Langley, Unique's liquidator, told The Money Programme he would not be surprised to see losses on the loans arranged by Mr Patel running to pounds 50m or more.

Asked about the possibility of repaying GRE, Mr Patel said: 'At the moment I cannot forsee that. But in the future if I have the money I will be delighted to give it back to them.'