SFO raids Hinchliffe banker

The Serious Fraud Office has raided the premises of bankers and associates of controversial Sheffield businessman Stephen Hinchliffe as part of a new investigation arising out of the collapse of his Facia retail empire last year.

The latest inquiry is into alleged widespread corruption involving former staff at United Mizrahi Bank, Israel's fourth largest and Facia's main backer.

Last November, as revealed in the Independent on Sunday, UMB started legal action against former executives over alleged backhanders received for making loans of over pounds 10m to Facia.

Last Wednesday, 22 police officers raided homes and offices of John Doherty, UMB's former head of lending, and Robert Leckie, a south London property trader linked with Mr Hinchliffe.

No arrests have so far been made.

Mr Leckie allegedly received at least pounds 1.3m in commissions from the Sheffield businessman for introducing loans from UMB. Much of that, it is further alleged, ended up in the pockets of bank staff via a network of offshore accounts.

Mr Hinchliffe is already being investigated by the SFO over the collapse of the Sock Shop-to-Saxone shoes group with debts of pounds 70m. The new inquiry goes far wider, however, and is looking into loans to other UMB clients in the UK and overseas.

"Officers of the SFO and South Yorkshire police executed search warrants at four premises connected with former officers of UMB in Bishops Stortford and Colliers Wood in London," an SFO spokesman confirmed this weekend.

"The investigation is expected to focus mainly on the UK but inquiries will also extend to Switzerland and Israel," he said.

South Yorkshire police's commercial branch, headed by Detective Chief Inspector Alan Timms, has led both inquiries. The SFO's team is fronted by Senior Assistant Director Gordon Dickinson.

Neither Mr Doherty nor Mr Leckie were available for comment this weekend, but last November both denied any wrongdoing. Mr Hinchliffe's solicitors, City law firm Peters & Peters, did not return calls.

Separately, City merchant bank Close Brothers has clipped the Sheffield entrepreneur's wings by repossessing his Hawker Siddeley jet in the first known action against his private master company, Chase Montagu.

Lavish expenses for use of the jet are among up to pounds 20m of allegedly irregular payments and loans made to his web of private companies, which contributed to Facia's collapse.

These are now being investigated by Facia's liquidators, accountancy firm BDO Stoy Hay- ward, which is expected to launch further action against Mr Hinchliffe.

Stoy Hayward took over from receivers KPMG last December as the next step in winding up Facia's affairs. This weekend KPMG partner Tony Thompson put fees for the receivership at pounds 2m, against pounds 20m of recoveries through sales of Facia's shops.

"It's not an expensive fee. There has been an enormous amount of investigation work and a lot to do in actually running the business, which traded profitably for the first time in receivership," he said. But ordinary creditors may have to wait two years for a payout, which is likely to total just pounds 3m - less than 5p in the pound.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Ashdown Group: Treasury Assistant - Accounts Assistant - London, Old Street

£24000 - £26000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...

Ashdown Group: Business Analyst - Financial Services - City, London

£50000 - £55000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Business Analyst - Financial Service...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + OTE £45K: SThree: At SThree, we like to be differe...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + competitive: SThree: Did you know? SThree is the o...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence
Public relations as 'art'? Surely not

Confessions of a former PR man

The 'art' of public relations is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef succumbs to his sugar cravings with super-luxurious sweet treats

Bill Granger's luxurious sweet treats

Our chef loves to stop for 30 minutes to catch up on the day's gossip, while nibbling on something sweet
London Marathon 2015: Paula Radcliffe and the mother of all goodbyes

The mother of all goodbyes

Paula Radcliffe's farewell to the London Marathon will be a family affair
Everton vs Manchester United: Steven Naismith demands 'better' if Toffees are to upset the odds against United

Steven Naismith: 'We know we must do better'

The Everton forward explains the reasons behind club's decline this season
Arsenal vs Chelsea: Praise to Arsene Wenger for having the courage of his convictions

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Praise to Wenger for having the courage of his convictions