Fraudster jailed for bogus Ritz hotel sale

Fraudster jailed for bogus Ritz hotel sale


By Stephanie Baxter 

A con artist who tried to lure some of the world’s richest men into buying the Ritz Hotel in London for £250 million was jailed for five years yesterday.


In an “elaborate and outrageous scam”, likely to have been fuelled by revenge, unemployed lorry driver Anthony Lee, 49, targeted property investor Terrence Collins, who is thought to have had previous dealings in property with the fraudster.   


Lee knew that Collins wanted to buy iconic properties and tricked him into handing over a £1 million deposit. 


Lee pretended that he was close to the Piccadilly hotel’s reclusive owners, billionaire brothers Sir Frederick and Sir David Barclay, to persuade investors into paying the advance on the bogus deal.


But the Barclays brothers had never even heard of Lee and were completely unaware of the £250 million bargain offer, which is only half of the hotel’s true value, estimated to be between £450 million and £600 million.


As negotiations progressed, Lee sucked in his buyers with further empty promises and frustrated them with unnecessary requests until they paid up the £1 million.


Investor Terence Collins turned to Dutch billionaire Marcel Boerkhoom, who is known as the “Dutch Richard Branson”, to finance the down payment in December 2006, but the sale never went through and Boerkhoom’s money was never returned.


In court, Judge Stephen Robbins said: “The scam was probably motivated by your mistaken belief that Terry Collins had deprived you of another potentially lucrative property deal. It may be that this offence was done out of revenge.”


Sgt Garry Ridler, who was commended by the judge for his thorough investigation spanning two years, said after the hearing: “It was well planned, well thought-out and there were victims. Reputations were ruined.”


After a four-week trial, Lee, from Goole in East Yorkshire, was found guilty at Southwark Crown Court of obtaining a money transfer by deception but was cleared of conspiracy to defraud.


Solicitor Conn Farrell, 57, of Aldershot in Hampshire, and his business partner Patrick Dolan, 68, of Tottenham in north London, were originally believed to have worked with Lee in masterminding the fraud, but were both cleared of involvement in the scam after telling the court they had believed the deal was lawful.

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