We were approached by one of our law firm clients in relation to a debtor who owed over £1m to their client. In previous correspondence via his solicitors, the debtor claimed to have no money or assets to settle the debt but our client wasn't buying this at all so instructed us to look into the debtor and see 'what we can dig up!'
We made extensive office based enquiries using the limited information supplied by client and much of it came up negative, however, one of his linked addresses was not too far from our offices so we made a field visit.
The address had new residents who advised that the property was empty when they bought it and had no knowledge of previous owners. We did however, note a “curtain twitcher” neighbour, an older gentleman, clearly ex-military, who waved us across and asked who we were looking for.
We informed him we were searching for Mr So & So and he brought out a very well-thumbed notebook and proceeded to advise us of the date and time that the debtor left the address, dates and times of others who were seeking him had called, types and registrations of vehicles, the lot! I did ask him if he wanted a job with us but he just chuckled!
One piece of key information was that the debtor drove a very expensive and distinctive vehicle with private registration plate, but he couldn't say where the debtor and his wife had moved to.
Other enquiries in the area proved fruitless so we returned to the office and continued our research.
An address was identified in an affluent area of Yorkshire, but the link was very vague to say the least and not one we could rely on as being 100% accurate. Another field trip into North Yorkshire was planned and a drive by of the property in question.
We arrived in early evening darkness to find a plush detached property, hidden behind high fencing and electric gates, quite set back from the road and with no neighbours within 100 metres.
A fight through skin shredding brambles and a one legged, tip toed balancing exercise ensued to try see into the property. Lo and behold on the nice gravel driveway was the distinctive vehicle we were advised about by the gentleman.
Quite encouraged now we started to make our way away from the property when our headlights lit up the fence we noted a For Sale sign so made note of the agent and relevant number.
Back in the office the following morning, enquiries quickly established that the property was owned by our debtor and his wife although the names on the Land Registry details were spelt slightly different, sneaky!! It was for sale for OIRO £900,000.Our client was updated and he was elated, advising us that he would be drafting papers to serve as soon as possible.
In the meantime, it was agreed we would continue with enquiries and see what else we could find. We suggested that we could even go and view the property as a prospective buyer to see what else could be gleaned. This brought about giggles of excitement from our client.
A viewing was arranged by the estate agent concerned, then myself and a female colleague attended one early evening. We were surprised to be greeted at the open electric gates by the debtor who introduced himself with a large smile and a handshake. No estate agent was present.
The property was quite sparse of furniture and he explained that they were moving items gradually to their new house. I didn't push this too much and continued to look around in an 'interested' fashion.
The debtor invited us to have a cuppa with him which of course we accepted, both having hot drinks without milk so it would take us longer to drink therefore more time with the subject.
He went on, without any coaxing, to tell us they had bought a large property not too far away which was even more rural and out of the way and although he didn't give us the address, he gave us an idea where it was. The debtor told us he had also purchased an apartment in Spain and brought up images on his iPad........I jumped in and asked if he would be renting it out at all as we would like a trip to Spain. He advised “yes absolutely” and proceeded to give us the name and internet link to the property for us to view!
So now we had 3 properties he owned!
On the way out I took an interest in his vehicle, making small talk about it. At this point he advised that as the new address was a bit more rural he had just ordered a new Range Rover but would be keeping his pride and joy vehicle also.
We departed and early next morning quite quickly identified the new property the debtor was referring to, a farm house. Land Registry enquiries confirmed he had bought it only 5 months previous and paid £650,000!
An interim report was sent to the client, identifying the assets, 3 properties, 2 vehicles (at least) and the debtor’s very open and brazen attitude. The report contained photographs of all 3 properties and confirmation of ownership of the 2 in the UK.
A second viewing was made at the property. This time we were armed with documents, which after a brief look around the property, were duly served on the debtor who was quite shocked and more than a little upset when he recalled all the information he had freely and openly told us in glorious detail!!
Charging Orders were placed upon the UK properties and after a couple of months passed we were informed by our client that the debt had been paid in full + all legal fees!
In future, he may perhaps let the estate agents handle viewings of properties he is selling!!!!
Result – a very happy client and very happy creditor!
Article submitted by Full member F1710 Vincent Butler of VTK Investigations Ltd. For further info see: http://www.vtkinvestigations.co.uk