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Property fraudster targeting pensioner buy-to-let

In August 2013 Morris, the former Leeds United director and property developer, was convicted of fraud after attempting to hide £1.5m from creditors in Swiss bank accounts following the collapse of his £80m property empire in 2009.

The Yorkshire Post reported that he was found guilty of two offences under the Insolvency Act, agreed to pay £500,000 to the trustee of bankruptcy and given a two year suspended sentence.

That conviction followed a four month stint in jail in 2011 after Morris was convicted for trying to blackmail his ex-business partner Hedley Manton for £100,000.

Evidence showed that he sent his 21-stone bodyguard Johnathon Ashworth to Manton’s offices in Headingley, Leeds, in March 2009 to demand he handed over the cash.

Despite the two convictions Morris is now back employed at investment firm Hennessy Jones which purports to “partner with institutions, public and private companies, trustees and multi-nationals across a broad range of asset ranges to develop and maintain leading-edge investment opportunities”.

The firm also helps borrowers secure bridging and short-term finance.

Now Morris has moved on from professional investors and in a blog posted on his website he discusses the merits for pensioners considering investing in buy-to-let.

The former jailbird has written a guide outlining “the key issues pensioners must consider before they take advantage of recent pension reforms to invest in buy-to-let property”.

It also explores property investment trusts, property investment funds, property investment bonds and real estate investment trusts.

In a press release issued this morning Morris said: “The guide explains the main costs of buy-to-let investment, the costs of taking advantage of pension reforms, and the factors that govern buy-to-let returns.

“This provides investors with the information they need to determine whether they should use their pension to invest in buy-to-let.”

The guide directs readers to Morris’ blog which describes him as a “professional in the business industry”.

It says: “Investment is a particular speciality of Simon’s and he has considerable experience investing in businesses along with their associated assets.

“Furthermore he channels his considerable expertise into advising on capital funding issues and for people who are seeking funds to increase their investment portfolio.”

Annie Shaw, regular contributor to Saga Magazine on issues affecting older investors, said: “Buy-to-let is a serious business and not to be undertaken lightly. Consumers should read widely and investigate all their options and should always take independent advice from a qualified adviser.”

Morris was asked to comment but has yet to respond.

Background

In August 2013 The Yorkshire Post reported Newcastle Crown Court heard Morris faced a financial “nightmare” when the property market began to collapse and the Bank of Ireland began to call in debts of £2.6m over their concerns about the way he operated.

Investigations revealed the Leeds-born entrepreneur re-mortgaged properties and gave away cash to business associates and family members in a bid to deceive creditors and the official receiver.

Morris, formerly of Ling Lane, Scarcroft, Leeds, pleaded guilty to two offences under the Insolvency Act.

He admitted a charge of failing to disclose property to the official receiver between October 8, 2009 and December 14, 2010.

The day before his 2013 hearing Morris signed a form agreeing to pay £500,000 to the trustee of bankruptcy.

Morris was given a 20-month prison sentence, suspended for two years. He was also placed on an electronically monitored curfew, between the hours of 8.30pm and 5am, for four months, and ordered to do 200 hours unpaid work.

The court heard he signed statements declaring he held no assets anywhere in the world despite being the holder of six Swiss bank accounts.

A bankruptcy trustee eventually learned that, in May 2008, Morris had transferred £727,979 into a Credit Suisse account from re mortgaging his main house in Leeds.

This account also had £561,901 paid into it from the sale of another property. In February 2009 Morris deposited eight gold bars. At the time they were each worth US$31,000.

Simon Batiste, prosecuting, told the court the Bank of Ireland had put 12 of Morris’s companies into administration in October 2008.

“It is clear from this date Mr Morris would have realised that his personal financial position was hopeless,” he said.

“It is the prosecution’s case that he therefore made a concerted effort to hide his assets from the relevant authorities.”

The prosecutor said Morris signed false declarations, first to his creditors as he sought to enter into an Individual Voluntary Arrangement with them and then to the official receiver as he was made redundant.

Sentencing Morris, judge Bryan Forster, QC, said: “Following the collapse of your empire you had little.

“It is clear to me that what you have done in this case is to try and hold on to as much as you could, probably for the purpose of trying to maintain a reasonable lifestyle for your family and, I suspect, in the hope that you would be able to start up a business in the future.”

This article was amended and update on 03/05/16


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