Swithland directors found guilty of fraud

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The Independent Online
Two former directors of what was once one of the country's largest privately owned car sales groups have been found guilty of fraudulent trading in a case brought by the Serious Fraud Office.

But the jury at Oxford Crown Court failed to reach a verdict on the same charge against a third former executive.

The jury convicted John Hayes, the former chairman and founder of Swithland Motors, and David Sharratt, the finance director, of fraudulent trading between 1 November 1991 and 26 November 1993. They will be sentenced tomorrow.

The judge dismissed the jury after it failed to agree on the charge against Richard Hayes, 35, the operations director and brother of the chairman.

The SFO opened the case, in conjunction with Customs and Excise and the Leicestershire Constabulary fraud and commercial branch, after Swithland's aborted stock market flotation in November 1993.

The court heard that John Hayes was "the spider at the centre of the web" and would have benefited by some pounds 1m if the flotation had been successful. He was described as "the leader and guiding light of Swithland".

Swithland was based in Mountsorrel, Leicestershire and put into receivership in November 1993. The receivers established that, contrary to accounting documents, the car dealership was grossly insolvent to the tune of pounds 25m.

The jury convicted Sharratt on Tuesday and reached its verdict on John Hayes yesterday.

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