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Signature Group behind failed Shankly Hotel investigated for £140m property fraud

Posted on - 22nd February, 2024 - 7:29am | Author - | Posted in - Business, Crime, Preston City Centre, Preston Council, Preston News, Redevelopment
Preston Shankly
Work was continuously starting and then stopping on the Shankly scheme during the six years of attempted conversion

The parent company behind the failed Shankly Hotel in Preston city centre is facing an investigation by the Serious Fraud Office.

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Four arrests were made in Merseyside and Greater Manchester during Wednesday 21 February was three residences were raided.

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It is part of an investigation into Signature Group which the fraud office say could be responsible for £140m of property fraud.

Read more: Shankly Hotel administrators give update on former Post Office building progress

A statement from the fraud office said: “The Signature Group operated for over seven years, buying up predominantly historic buildings within the UK for redevelopment into luxury hotels, residential apartments and office spaces.

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“Investors loaned money to Signature or purchased a hotel room, apartment or office space in one of the group’s properties, with promised returns on their investment of between 8% and 15%. The business collapsed into administration with losses of up to £140 million.

“Properties in the group’s portfolio included Millennium House in Liverpool as well as a cruise liner that was marketed as a “flotel” to be moored off Canary Wharf in London and travel to Ibiza.”

Read more: Snail farm claims over former BHS store in Preston city centre

The Signature Group were behind The Shankly Preston, which was due to be converted into a luxury hotel along with an events space on its top floor.

Conversion of the former Post Office building, which was sold to Lawrence Kenwright and The Signature Group in 2016 by Preston City Council, started but was never completed.

The Signature Group fell into administration in 2022 and no new buyer has yet been found for the Old Post Office site.

Earlier this month, Lawrence Kenwright and his wife, were both declared bankrupt. Kenwright was a director of The Signature Group and behind the Preston Shankly scheme.

Director of the Serious Fraud Office Nick Ephgrave QPM said: “The scheme offered attractive returns and used much-loved local landmarks to lure investors.

“We have people up and down the country left out of pocket, and buildings left derelict at the centre of our cities.

“The arrests and searches will help us reconstruct exactly what happened. This is now an active criminal investigation.”

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