Police investigating missing £237million handed new leads

Police investigating missing £237million handed new leads

3rd April 2019

Fraud squad detectives investigating the collapsed Tunbridge Wells Company London Capital & Finance (LCF) are looking at possible new leads after being handed a document that came into the possession of the Times.

The newspaper this week passed on the document to the Serious Fraud Office, which has launched an investigation into LCF called ‘Operation Axite’.

Officers arrested four men last month in connection with the collapse of LCF, but all were released pending further enquiries.

The document handed to fraud squad officers purports to show some of the business practices of LCF and other associated enterprises as well as the lifestyle of some of the individuals involved.

LCF was founded by the high profile businessman Simon Hume-Kendall the former chairman of the Tunbridge Wells Conservative Party.

The 65-year-old, who lives in a mews in Tunbridge Wells, later resigned from the company. He is said to be a frequent visitor to the Sloane Club in Chelsea that describes itself as is ‘a Private Members Club in London’s most exclusive neighbourhood’.

Yesterday [Tuesday], Mr Hume-Kendall spoke to the Times at his quiet mews house off Pembury Road, where his Range Rover with personalised number plate sits on the drive. He denied any wrongdoing.

“The intention is to pay all the money back,” he insisted when he opened his front door.

When asked about the tens of millions that went from LCF to London Oil & Gas, a company he was connected with that has now fallen into administration, Mr Hume-Kendall said: “It is not a shell company and I am not a director of London Oil & Gas.”

When pressed on whether he was being investigated by the Serious Fraud Office, he replied: “I really cannot talk about it.”

Two other local businessmen men have also been caught up in the collapse of LCF, Spencer Golding from Crowborough and Elten Barker who lives at Hadlow Down.

LCF went into administration earlier this year, following an investigation by the Finance Conduct Authority, which led to the firm’s bank accounts being frozen.

More than 11,500 ordinary savers invested £237million in the firm, which administrators say are unlikely to get more than 20 per cent back.

Administrators Smith & Williamson released their report into the LCF’s finances last week and found a web of business interests that they branded ‘highly suspicious’ including investments in Cornish holiday cottages, equestrian stables, helicopters and properties in Cape Verde, a volcanic archipelago off the northwest coast of Africa

The Serious Fraud Office arrested four men last month in connection with LCF’s collapse

The company was set up by Simon Hume-Kendall in 2012 to provide finance to small firms under the name South Eastern Counties Finance. Mr Hume-Kendall soon passed on the firm to associate Andy Thomson.

Under Mr Thomson’s directorship the firm began selling mini-bonds, which allow investors to lend cash to companies in return for an income stream, with LCF offering 8 per cent a year on these loans, much better than competitive investments.

The company said the cash would be invested in tax-free ISAs before being lent to small businesses, but administrators found the money went to just 12 firms, most of which were connected to Mr Hume-Kendall.

Much of the missing money ended up at London Oil and Gas, the firm controlled by Mr Hume-Kendall and associate Elten Barker. London Oil and Gas went into administration shortly after the collapse of LCF.

The £124 million paid to London Oil and Gas cash was lent out again to various firms under the control of either Mr Hume-Kendall or known associates of his, including a holiday resort in Cape Verde, two more in the Dominican Republic and another in Cornwall.

An additional £12.6million went to a stables run by another associate of Hume-Kendall’s, Spencer Golding.

Mr Golding, also from Crowborough, is banned from serving as a company director following a bankruptcy in 2006. Despite this, Mr Golding is a familiar figure in the area, often flying above the town in his private helicopter.

Administrators also found another £840,000 went to London Financial Group, LCF’s parent firm, and used to purchase a helicopter.

Administrators have asked Hume-Kendall, Barker, Golding and Thomson to repay the money back, and while two have the men have agreed to do so Smith & Williamson are yet to hear from Golding and Thomson.

Evidence obtained by the Times, identifies other men involved in the collapse of the investment company, including a former solicitor, now struck off from practicing, and the owner of a marketing firm hired to push the mini-bonds on unsuspecting customers.

Mt Hume-Kendall is a well-known character in both Tunbridge Wells and Conservative Party circles.

The 65-year-old and former director of Crystal Palace Football Club, and former chairman of a company that took over the Daily Sport newspaper, has donated a reported £60,000 to the Conservative Party, and only last year gave £5,000 to the constituency of Work and Pensions Minister, MP Amber Rudd.

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