Investor battles lawyers in £2.6m estate 'lord fraud'

Investor battles lawyers in £2.6m estate 'lord fraud'


An investor conned by a pensioner, who pretended to be a Scottish aristocrat with an ancestral home and 315 acres of land in Fife, is now pursuing a damages claim against a law firm he alleges kept silent about the fraud. 

Frank Houlgate, from Leeds, raised the court action against Biggart Baillie, of Edinburgh, whom he alleges found out about the con but “connived” with John Cameron in order to set aside a legal document in the fraud case. Mr Cameron solicited funds from Mr Houlgate for investment in a company called Securimax.
Mr Cameron, 79, who has a history of fraud dating back to 1955, invited Mr Houlgate to invest £500,000 in the company, but the latter required security for the loan. At this stage, the former pretended to (but did not) own a property called Balbuthie Farm in Fife, which he said the investor could use for standard security.
It is alleged that Biggart Baillie, after preparing a standard security over the property, became aware of the fraud but did not disclose this to the pursuer - Mr Houlgate.
Last year, Cameron admitted six charges of obtaining money by deception and one of making false representations, and was jailed for four years.
Biggart Baillie disputed liability and argued to Lord Glennie at the Court of Session in Edinburgh that the case should be dismissed.

However, the judge ruled it should be allowed to proceed, while stressing that, as yet, the court had heard only legal submissions. He said: "It is important to emphasise that no evidence has yet been led in the case.”

In the Court of Session case, Mr Houlgate described how he met Cameron in 2004 and Cameron had told him he had an ancestral estate in Scotland worth £2.6 million which could be used as security. In 2006, Cameron took him to see the property.

Biggart Baillie drew up a document putting up the farm as security. A total of £480,000 was invested by Mr Houlgate in a series of payments, the last, for £100,000, being made on 30 January, 2007.

Mr Houlgate said he became aware of the fraud in July 2007, through a newspaper article in Leeds about a man who had been convicted of fraud. He recognised Cameron. He subsequently phoned Balbuthie Farm and spoke to the real John Cameron's wife. She told him she and her husband had had previous problems with Cameron fraudulently impersonating her husband.

According to Mr Houlgate, John Cameron's name had been used in a fraud which came to light in December 2006 and a county court judgment had been obtained against him. His lawyers had written to Biggart Baillie in January 2007 to explain the situation.

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