Fraud Office pressed to investigate HBOS scam

Fresh criminal investigations into the notorious HBOS Reading fraud are being considered, with the police force that exposed the scam calling on the Serious Fraud Office to open an inquiry into a group of jet-chartering businesses that collapsed with debts of more than £100 million.

Thames Valley police are due to submit a request asking the SFO to investigate Corporate Jet Services, The Times understands.

CJS was owned by David Mills, who led the £1 billion HBOS fraud, a conspiracy to asset-strip businesses and use them as a conduit for stealing millions of pounds through fraudulent loans.

Mills was described by Judge Martin Beddoe as a “thoroughly corrupt and devious man” when he was jailed with five others in February for the scam, the proceeds of which included drugs, prostitutes and luxury travel.

It is understood that the SFO will be asked to examine whether CJS, which is in liquidation, was used for laundering money linked with the HBOS Reading fraud. CJS collapsed in 2007, owing HBOS more than £113 million, despite having listed assets worth only £2 million. Its jets were used by celebrities and by Mills. The company was also used to help to buy a £2 million yacht owned by Mills and said to have been funded by the fraud.

On the day it entered receivership, receivers from PWC, the accountancy firm, sold its assets — six trading subsidiaries — to a new company set up by the same management for £7. More substantial payments followed. CJS’s former directors include Robin Southwell, the former industry ambassador for David Cameron. There is no suggestion of wrongdoing by Mr Southwell.

The circumstances surrounding the company’s demise are being investigated by Elliot Green, CJS’s liquidator who is a partner at Oury Clark, an accountancy firm. He is concerned that substantial funds went through the company that allegedly are unaccounted for.

In 2015, the High Court ordered David Chubb and Michael Jervis, of PWC, the joint receivers of CJS, to disclose certain documentation related to the collapse to Mr Green. This was after Mr Green had raised concerns about payments made before and after CJS failed, including tens of millions of pounds paid to bank accounts on the Isle of Man.

The liquidator is investigating the receivership and the management team’s conduct before the involvement of PWC, including payments from CJS to Mills and Quayside Corporate Services, the company used to steal from HBOS and destroy scores of small and medium-sized businesses.

A PWC spokesman said: “We were brought in as administrative receivers, which is quite a specific role, on a complex case. The receivers fulfilled their statutory duties and significantly reduced the bank’s liabilities.”

During civil disclosure proceedings, Mr Green was criticised for failing to mention that the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales had found there was “no identifiable wrongdoing attributable to Mr Jervis or Mr Chubb”. There is no suggestion of criminal conduct by PwC.

Mr Southwell, also a former director of Quayside, declined to comment, but he has noted previously that he had a non-executive role in CJS.

Thames Valley police declined to comment.