How to account for a business crash : BUNHILL

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The Independent Online
THERE ARE people here who are convinced that Jeremy Hanley, the Tory party chairman, is not all he's made out to be. Bunhill is not one of the doubters, it must be said here and now.

Nevertheless I think my chums may well have a point. After all, Hanley is politically accident prone, and. . . well, a bit of a buffoon, I suppose.

But, I hear you say, he is a brilliant accountant isn't he? I mean, that's where he made his money, teaching the suited ones the tricks of the trade. Well, up to a point. . .

Hanley was a director of a thing called Sirius Enterprises, which promoted the talents of his sister Jenny as an "actress and model". Sadly, Sirius is no more, having been dissolved by a government department, namely the DTI, because it failed to file accounts. It was struck off the register at Companies House in Cardiff in 1993. This is surprising because the company - and presumably Hanley - was given plenty of warning about it and did nothing.

But he should know about these things, shouldn't he? After all, he made his money from bean counting.

But wait. He was also a director and shareholder of something called Sheridan-Hanley Enterprises (these Tories are terribly keen on enterprise), which promoted the services of his mother as an "actress''.

During 1989, the company claimed a sum of £1,017 against tax for hairdressing and make-up, which fully explains Hanley's corrugated mop and ruddy complexion.

THIS STORY is not really about Wafic Said, the international businessman and friend of Mrs Thatcher. However, he is involved in it, so it should be told. A fellow called Misbah Baki, who lives on income support in Torquay, went bust after a failed business deal and later, to make matters worse, Said sued him for libel (you can tell why I have to be careful here) and won £440,000 damages.

Said is a sporting chap, though, and decided not to enforce the award.

Baki claims that Said used to run a restaurant in London, which is where he first met him in 1961. Anyway, to cut a long story short, Baki has been left in ruinous circumstances (nothing to to do with Said) and appealed to Prince Khaled Bin Sultan Bin Abdulaziz for some loot.

Sadly, the loot was not forthcoming. In fact, it got worse when the wrath of Linklaters & Paines, a firm of very serious City lawyers, dropped on Baki.

Linklaters acts for the Prince, and the firm seems to think it is illegal to ask for money. Maybe it is, I do not know. Only one problem. Baki tells me that he didn't ask for money - he only asked the Prince to "intervene''. He is adamant that he didn't ask the Prince for money: "I signed the letter `Your Obedient Servant'. This is high-handedness and this man (the Prince) can go to court if he likes, because I shall fight him all the way.''

This will make amusing entertainment if it does happen. Imagine Prince Khaled suing a man on income support.

Talking turkey THE BRITISH turkey is a very splendid thing. And what better time to write about it than now. What can I tell you? Well, there's an outfit called the British Turkey Information Service, and they have written to say that turkey prices are the lowest they've been for 50 years. Can this be true? Well, yes, apparently it is. You can pick up turkey for 29p a pound in some stores. Yet another fascinating fact for your delectation.

THIS STORY may be complete rubbish, but I suspect that it is true, so I shall tell it. A banker friend recently went on business to Paris. As you know, anyone who is anyone stays at the Paris Ritz. - and so it was with him. Imagine my shock when he rang to tell me Asil Nadir was in the foyer with two bodyguards.

Now, this does not sound plausible, except that the friend is an eminent City banker and knows about things like this.

So he was insistent: "I am as sure as if I'd met my own wife. I swear to you it was him.''

Well, I for one was convinced. So being an upright citizen, I rang the Serious Fraud Office to see if I could interest them in this red-hot tip.

Think about it. They could have been in Paris before lunch, slapped on the handcuffs, applied for extradition and had Nadir back on British turf by teatime.

Alas, this was not to be. The SFO thanked me kindly for my interest but they were sorry, they simply couldn't follow up every lead.

Eau, do it again THOUSANDS of replies to my "most expensive water in the world" competition. Well, two actually, but the quality of the entries was rather good.

Regular readers will recall that last week I wrote about the £3.95 bottle of water from El Vino in Fleet Street. First, John Hattersley from South Yorkshire, who recently spent an evening at the Ellersley Country House Hotel in Edinburgh. His bill for a bottle of Highland Spring was £3.50.

But then, right at the last moment, two women from the Royal Shakespeare Company write to tell me about the Cafe Sol in Stratford-upon-Avon, which recently charged them £5.50 for a bottle of Hillborne.

But El Vino is clearly not willing to give up its crown without a fight. Its branch on New Bridge Street charges £1.05 for a glass of water - further examples are welcome.

MY PICTURE this week is not new, but it's nice. It's a picture of the most expensive jeans in the world. The diamond- encrusted trews belong to Joe Bloggs Jeans, a terribly successful company in Birmingham run by Shami Ahmed who had them specially made at a cost of more than £100,000 over a year ago.

Being a seasonal chap I wanted to know whether they were for sale. I'm sure you'll agree they would make a delightful Christmas present for someone. Unfortunately they are not, and it seems I am not the first to have asked. "We have had lots of world-famous celebrities who want to buy them.''

"Who? Who?'' I enquire.

"Oh, that's confidential,'' says the spokesman.

Anyway, the jeans are soon to go on a world tour (rather like a pop singer) and will be travelling throughout the Middle East and Europe, meeting up with the Joe Bloggs distributors in those parts.

Funny ha ha Q. What do you call a Warburg employee who irons five shirts on Sunday evening?

A. An optimist.

A BROCHURE lands with a thud on my desk, extolling the attractions of an outdoor holiday in the Scottish Highlands on the Ardtornish Estate in Argyllshire. It promises the sporting customer plenty of shooting, fishing and other healthy fresh-air pursuits.

So who are the people behind this little entrepreneurial venture, I wonder?

Well, blow me down if it's not two former Stock Exchange chairmen: it appears that Sir Nicholas Goodison and Sir Andrew Hugh Smith run this as a sideline.

They have gone into the holiday rental business, can you believe it, up there with the likes of Harry Goodman and Richard Branson.

But the partnership turns out not to be so strange because the two happen to be related (I bet you didn't know about that) - through marriage, but nevertheless related.

Anyway, the Scottish holiday venture is apparently all run for the benefit of a family trust.

Anyone with a deeper knowledge of what this might all mean should get in contact with Bunhill like a shot.