Tony Hetherington is Financial Mail on Sunday’s ace investigator, fighting readers corners, revealing the truth that lies behind closed doors and winning victories for those who have been left out-of-pocket. Find out how to contact him below.
M. M. writes: You reported in January on the mystery of where investors’ money had gone after it was put into bonds issued by Global Water Group.
On paper, the firm looked safe and promising, but it went into liquidation and the liquidators have not been able to trace its assets.
Have there been any developments?
Convincing: Ross Perry ran Global Water, which lured investors in with carefully prepared adverts
Tony Hetherington replies: Global Water Group, based in Cambridge, has graduated from a mystery to a scam.
Questions that were unanswered in January have gradually produced answers that show the whole business was based on lies and false claims.
It did indeed look good on paper, describing itself as a powerful network that included governments, academic institutions and pension funds.
It is now clear there never was any such network. And it marketed interest-bearing bonds with the promise that investors’ funds would be used to develop water technology. Instead, the money disappeared.
The company only ever had two bosses. The first was Michael Livesey from Basildon in Essex.
In October 2019 he handed over to Ross Perry, also from Basildon. And in May last year, Perry put the company into liquidation.
There was no surprise in seeing a company linked to Perry going bust. He was a director of a scam carbon credit investment firm called London Green Financial, which collapsed in 2013. Before that, he was linked to Elite Asset Exchange, which marketed storage units as investments. It went bust in 2015.
However, Global Water Group did get as far as filing accounts at Companies House. These showed the firm had paid £500,000 for an option to purchase land.
There was nothing to say who had been paid this, or where the land was located, and it is now clear that the accounts – signed by Livesey – were false.
The land deal was fictitious, designed to make the company look solid when in fact it was paper thin.
The fake balance sheet and the false promises were simply bait to attract investors, who poured hundreds of thousands of pounds into the business.
According to liquidator Carter Clark, the company has debts of £888,000, but only £85,621 was found in its bank accounts. It has instructed solicitors to see if they can recover any more money.
So where did investors’ cash end up? At least part of the answer is that £350,000 went to Perry who gambled with it and lost – allegedly – though I know that some investors suspect a large slice of their money has been salted away somewhere.
The liquidator has handed its findings to Essex Police and assured me that they will co-operate with enquiries. It added: ‘The issue of criminal proceedings is now one entirely for the police and a matter which is outside the control of the liquidator.’
Officers at Essex Police themselves confirmed: ‘We are investigating a suspected fraud and money laundering allegation in relation to the conduct of a business trading as Global Water Group Limited.’
Anyone with information or evidence can contact me at The Mail on Sunday and I will pass it on to the investigation team.
The police are not alone in taking a close look at this. The Insolvency Service has just slapped a ban on Michael Livesey from acting as the director of any company.
The ban began on Tuesday and is in place for the next 11 years. Investigators found that while Livesey was in charge, investors pumped £640,275 into his business, of which £444,648 was withdrawn with no proper explanation.
Perry and Livesey were both invited to comment, but said nothing and offered no answers.
Travelodge won’t take vouchers it refunded
A. T. writes: When cancelling a booking with Travelodge at Helensburgh, I accepted its suggestion of a credit voucher instead of a cash refund.
But when I made a new booking, and then a further one, I was told the credit voucher could only be used once, and anything not spent on my first new booking was forfeited.
Short-changed: A. T. accepted Travelodge’s suggestion of a credit voucher instead of a cash refund.
Tony Hetherington replies: Lockdowns and travel restrictions have brought a surge in complaints from customers whose plans had to be put on hold. Your Helensburgh booking cost £234, which you could have reclaimed in cash, but Travelodge offered a voucher for £293, which you accepted.
You told me that what Travelodge did not point out was that its terms and conditions say the voucher has to be spent all at once.
You found this out the hard way, when you booked a trip to Harrogate costing £129, and were then told that even though you had originally paid £234 to Travelodge, the Harrogate visit was all you would get.
Travelodge insists that its voucher terms are clear, but it has told me that as a gesture of goodwill it has refunded £105, the difference between the £234 you paid for the cancelled Helensburgh trip and the £129 you actually spent on the later Harrogate booking.
If you believe you are the victim of financial wrongdoing, write to Tony Hetherington at Financial Mail, 2 Derry Street, London W8 5TS or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Because of the high volume of enquiries, personal replies cannot be given. Please send only copies of original documents, which we regret cannot be returned.