AS the Mail reveals how Yoxall businessman Colin Thomas faces a police investigation into a suspected £43 million property scam, staff reporter ROB SMYTH and Spanish-based journalist Fergal MacErlean take a detailed look into the allegations.
OCEAN View Properties was founded by buy-to-let tycoon Colin Thomas in 2001.
He is now facing criminal charges in Spain for fraud and misappropriation of funds in relation to alleged irregularities with his overseas property investment company.
He marketed the properties using celebrities while his then friend, convicted conman Sean Woodhall, searched for development opportunities on the Costa del Sol.
Ocean View was behind a number of successful enterprises but ran into difficulties when it became involved as an agent for Spanish developer Ricardo Miranda Miret.
More than a thousand British investors who paid £45 million for off-plan overseas property developments have lost their money after Ocean View was formally dissolved in 2009 with the appointment of liquidators Grant Thornton.
The purchasers each paid deposits, typically of between £85,000 and £120,000, four years ago for properties in Spain and the Dominican Republic, which were either never built or said to be sub-standard.
Some are alleged to have lost much more.
Two investors sank almost a million pounds each into schemes run by Miranda Miret, one being a 350 luxury apartment build at the Estepona Country Club on the Costa del Sol, the other marketed as a prestigious 6,000-property development, Punta Perla, in the Dominican Republic.
When the sector collapsed amid corruption scandals in the Estepona region, the venture started to fail. Thomas and Woodhall had turned their attention to the Caribbean development of Punta Perla in the Dominican Republic.
Woodhall, 43, went missing after his light aircraft crashed over Brazil in 2008 and, while his body has never been recovered, he has been declared dead.
Nick Wood, partner at Grant Thornton’s Recovery and Reorganisation practice, said: “We are investigating what happened to monies paid by investors. There is a black hole amounting to millions of pounds.
“We are looking to identify any claims which can be instigated to recover monies for creditors.
“Our investigation is focusing on Ocean View’s operations in the UK and overseas jurisdictions including Spain.”
Ocean View, which operated as a franchise throughout the UK, had an office at the historic country mansion of Longdon Hall in Rugeley.
Colin Thomas owns a luxury home at Town Hill in Yoxall, where he lives with his partner, Michelle de Havilland.
Both Thomas and Ms de Havilland are Friday night regulars at The Meynell Ingram Arms in Hoar Cross, where they helped to set up the charity madcap Hoar Cross Downhill Soapbox race.
Thomas and the former directors, or considered de facto directors, of Ocean View, which include David Stewart and Robert Parkes, were named in the criminal claim lodged in a Madrid court on February 4.
Those in charge of running Ocean View and Spanish developer Miranda Miret have previously strongly denied any wrongdoing.
Antonio Flores, the Spanish prosecuting lawyer from Marbella-based firm Lawbird, said: “I don’t believe Ocean View knew nothing about what was going on.
But they will be forced to talk in court.
“This was a scam of huge proportions. It has the potential of becoming one of the biggest property scams, as none of the developments will be built.”
Several celebrities were involved in the marketing of the company, but there are no suggestions of wrongdoing against any of them.
They included Martin Roberts, presenter of the BBC’s Homes Under the Hammer property programme.
He claims the company owes him and his partner around £200,000.
England international footballers Gareth Barry and Alan Smith also bought properties successfully from Ocean View.
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