Supplier with debts of £6.7m to RBS alone linked to alleged fake invoices .


A number of leasing companies are expected to come together in a possible joint legal action after falling victim to an alleged multiple financing scam, according to a lawyer involved with the case.

The lawyer said he is representing several leasing companies with regard to a supplier of fruit farming equipment alleged to be behind the scam.

He said: “I am instructed by some leasing companies in respect of this – I have given some general advice and I am involved in some potential claims that arise out of the broader issue.”

He added: “I think at some point in time, the finance companies will end up coming together and this will be more out in the public.”

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The company alleged to be at the centre of the scam, believed to run into tens of millions of pounds, is now thought to be Worcester-based Crop Pro-Tech, according to a number of corroborating sources.

Crop Pro-Tech, a supplier of protective polytunnels to the fruit farming industry, is accused of issuing several invoices for single items of equipment and, in some instances, issuing invoices even though equipment was never delivered to lessees.

The scam has been reported to involve about £30m (€34m) of multiple and fresh air financings, and is thought to have hit up to 25 leasing companies, including European Corporate Finance, CIT vendor Finance, Hitachi Capital Business Finance and Kingsway Asset Finance.

The alleged perpetrators are also said to have made use of a number of different companies to carry out the scam.

They are accused of using aluminium frames, which support the polytunnels, not all of which were stamped with serial numbers, so that leasing companies found it hard to identify which belonged to them.

It is now feared the money forwarded to the supplier has disappeared, sources say.

Crop Pro-Tech went into liquidation in September 2009 and, from a list of 16 creditors, now owes more than £1m.

A source close to the case confirmed both SG Equipment Finance and ECF Group are pursuing their own investigations in a bid to trace the unmarked aluminium frames.

The source said: “It is a matter of trying to identify which funders actually financed the tunnels that exist.

“A lot of work has been done and the tunnel supplier is Crop Pro-Tech.”

He added the £750,000 for which ECF was allegedly stung in the scam has not been traced.

The problem now, the source said, is that liquidators Smith and Williamson are unable to pursue lost funds as creditors to Crop Pro-Tech are unwilling to put up more cash only to find their losses are not recoverable.

The source also named two Crop Pro-Tech staff implicated in the alleged fraud as Martin Seymour and Andrew Coates.

“They are the ones it revolved around – to what extent, even they are arguing about,” the source said.

“Martin Seymour has even started legal action against Andrew Coates.”

A third member of staff, thought to be Seymour’s wife, is also said to be involved.

The source added Seymour claimed never to have signed personal guarantees to several finance companies and handwriting experts had been called in to analyse signatures.

Seymour also had his employment terminated in September 2009, shortly before Crop Pro-Tech went into liquidation, Leasing Life has discovered.

The saga has grown increasingly complicated as a number of other companies – some of which are now in administration – have been revealed to have links to Crop Pro-Tech.The company is now thought to be at the centre of a growing legal battle as various petitions for bankruptcy are said to have been issued against Seymour.

At least one winding-up petition is also believed to have been issued, as well as various legal actions, thought to include allegations of forgery and breach of contract for non-payment of lease rentals.

Companies linked to Crop Pro-Tech include Well-Pict European – which is said to be the parent company to Crop Pro-Tech and is in administration under BDO LLP – Hiller Farms and Advanced Marketing Services.

Seymour is 100 per cent shareholder of Well-Pict European and Hiller Farms, 50 per cent shareholder of Advanced Marketing Services and is listed as a director of all three.

He is also a major shareholder of Crop Pro-Tech.