People & Business: Don't mess with me...

IF YOU'RE thinking of picking a fight with Jamie Smith, a receiver with accountants Deloitte & Touche, think again; he's got enough tanks, missiles and military aircraft under his control to start a small war.

As well as the Sea Vixen at North Weald pictured above, Mr Smith can call upon two Chieftain tanks, a pair of Bloodhound anti-aircraft missiles ("the only ones in private hands") and a fleet of Second World War bombers, including a Lancaster, a Lincoln and a Mitchell. He also has "a load of old motorbikes".

This is because three months ago Mr Smith was appointed by the UK court to take control of the assets of the David Copley group of companies. Mr Copley, an entrepreneur from the North-east, is being investigated by Hull police over fraud allegations.

Mr Copley's ambition was to buy a Second World War airfield and return it to working order as a tourist attraction, complete with working aircraft.

And, according to Mr Smith, Mr Copley got quite close to fulfilling his dream. "He bought one World War Two airfield in Sandtoft, near Doncaster, and had put down the half million-pound deposit for another, North Cotes in Lincolnshire."

It all went pear- shaped this summer when a group of Mr Copley's American investors launched a legal action to retrieve $13m (pounds 8m) from him. The UK courts then appointed Mr Smith to secure Mr Copley's assets and hang on to them until the issue was settled.

Mr Smith says news of his new-found arsenal has caused quite a stir. "A lawyer friend of mine rang me up when he heard about the receivership and wanted to buy one of the tanks, because he used to be in the Tank Regiment," he says. "But I have no power to sell. I'm just making sure the assets are secure until the legal action is settled."

Until then, don't step on Mr Smith's toes...

WILLIAM HAGUE can huff and puff as much as he likes about how Britain should reject European monetary union. I wonder if the fervently Eurosceptic Tory Party leader realises that the new GCHQ, Britain's most important spy centre, is being funded by that bastion of old London town, Deutsche Bank.

The pounds 300m-plus contract to replace the spy centre in Cheltenham was awarded yesterday to a consortium including Tarmac, Group 4 and BT. Indeed, Tarmac proudly put out a press release to that effect.

The Tarmac announcement failed, however, to mention that private finance for the project will be provided by Deutsche Bank, Germany's biggest bank.

As Basil Fawlty would say: "Don't mention the war."

At least it should give the Tory Eurosceptics something to chew on. Perhaps they could get Baroness Thatcher to open it.

LAST WEEK I reported how the global financial crisis had prompted Merrill Lynch to scrap their planned Christmas party at the Natural History Museum in South Kensington. Now I hear that the investment bank has told its staff not to use mobile phones as they are too expensive.

But how can they phone for taxis? Hang on, they've just been banned from using taxis as well...

IN INVESTMENT, timing is everything. I can't help thinking that the authors of "Global Bargain Hunting: The Investor's Guide to Big Profits in Emerging Markets" could have picked a better moment to publish their book in the UK.

Burton Malkiel and JP Mei, the American authors, have just brought their tome out via Penguin at pounds 18.99. The book's blurb declares that "emerging markets have established themselves as some of the most exciting investment opportunities available".

Oh dear. The pair go on: "From Chile to China, Indonesia to India, developing countries around the world are experiencing significant economic expansions - often several times greater than the growth rates of the West."

To be fair, the authors do admit in the introduction to the UK edition: "In the year since the original edition... was written, emerging markets, especially those in Asia, have been affected by extraordinary turmoil." They add that investing in emerging markets needs "strong stomachs".

Pass the Setlers, please.

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