Serious Fraud Squad make four arrests in £140m Signature Group investigation

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Three residences were raided in Merseyside and Greater Manchester on Wednesday.

The Serious Fraud Office has arrested four people after raiding three homes in Merseyside and Greater Manchester as part of its investigation into Liverpool-based property business Signature Group. The names of those arrested have not yet been made public.

Signature, which operated for seven years, predominantly redeveloped historic buildings into luxury hotels and residential apartments and office spaces and had a portfolio that included the Shankly Hotel and Dixie Dean hotel on Victoria Street, Liverpool.

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Thousands of UK and international investors loaned money to Signature Group or purchased a hotel room, apartment or office space in one of its properties, with promised returns on their investment of between 8% and 15%. The business collapsed into administration with losses of up to £140 million.

Nick Ephgrave QPM, director of the Serious Fraud Office, said: “The scheme offered attractive returns and used much-loved local landmarks to lure investors. We have people up and down the country left out of pocket, and buildings left derelict at the centre of our cities. Today’s arrests and searches will help us reconstruct exactly what happened. This is now an active criminal investigation.”

Shankly Hotel, Victoria Street, LiverpoolShankly Hotel, Victoria Street, Liverpool
Shankly Hotel, Victoria Street, Liverpool | Google Street View

This is the fourth new investigation launched since Director Ephgrave joined the UK’s specialist anti-fraud agency in September. Wednesday operation was supported by the National Crime Agency (NCA).

Properties in the Signature Group’s portfolio also included iconic landmarks such as Belfast’s Scottish Mutual Building, the Coal Exchange in Cardiff and as a cruise liner that was marketed as a ‘flotel’ to be moored off Canary Wharf in London and travel to Ibiza.

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Signature Group was run by chief executive Lawrence Kenwright and his wife Katie. The couple were declared bankrupt by the Government's insolvency service earlier this year. Two bankruptcy orders, made at Liverpool County Court on January 30, will last for 12 months.

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