Fraud investigators are looking at a suspected international property scam that has left investors more than £40 million out-of-pocket.
Ocean View Properties, based in Staffordshire, has gone in to administration claiming overseas developers forced the company to stop trading after failing to repay millions of Euros handed over as deposits on behalf of investors.
A notice to investors on the company website claims: “Adverse press reports have undoubtedly contributed to the company’s demise though we have communicated and continue to communicate with the relevant media personnel to correct the inaccuracies that they appear to have been fed.
“It is worth noting here that there are clearly a number of people who have appeared in these articles who have subsequently confirmed that they were never personally approached or that they have been misquoted.
“With regards to the allegations surrounding Sean Woodall we can confirm that he acted as a ‘land finding’ agent for us for a period of around 4 years. It subsequently transpired that, not only was he creating problems with the developers that we were working with but he also had a ‘history’. Accordingly links between us and he were severed in 2005.”
This statement refers to articles in the Sunday Express that alleged hundreds of investors have been left at least £80,000 each out of pocket after major off-plan property deals in Spain’s Costa del Sol never materialised.
Customers were told their cash was being held in legal escrow accounts, said the newspaper, but when they asked for refunds, the money had disappeared.
Sean Woodhall set up his own company, Worldwide Destinations after falling out with Ocean View, copying the Ocean View business model in Egypt, Brazil and the Dominican Republic.
In May last year, a light aircraft said to be carrying Woodhall was reported to have crashed over Brazil.
His body has never been recovered, but he was declared dead last autumn.
Fraud officers from Staffordshire Police, City of London Police and the Serious Fraud Office are currently investigating Ocean View to see if any evidence exists to support criminal allegations.
Ocean View was set up in 2001 by buy-to-let millionaire Colin Thomas, other businessmen and Sean Woodhall, a convicted fraudster.
Investors were persuaded to buy off-plan apartments in southern Spain.
Several celebrities were involved in the marketing – but there are no suggestions of wrongdoing against any of them. They include Martin Roberts, presenter of the BBC’s Homes Under the Hammer property programme.
He claims the company owes him and his partner about £200,000.
England international footballers Gareth Barry and Alan Smith also bought properties successfully from Ocean View.