Serious fraud office assessing Gavin Woodhouse businesses

The Serious Fraud Office is considering whether to investigate the business affairs of Gavin Woodhouse after referrals by two senior politicians.

John Mann MP, a long-standing members of parliament’s Treasury select committee alleged that Woodhouse’s business model "smells a bit like a Ponzi scheme

"[The business model is] so complex it’s hard to be certain, but something is not right here," Mann told ITV News.

"I’ve written to the Serious Fraud Office and Andrew Bailey, the head of the Financial Conduct Authority, the regulator, asking them to intervene and investigate."

Labour MP for Bassetlaw, John Mann, said it 'smelt like a Ponzi scheme'. Credit: PA

Earlier this week Adam Price, the leader of Plaid Cymru and a Welsh assembly member, said he would write to the SFO for "an immediate inquiry" into what had gone on at Woodhouse’s company, Northern Powerhouse Developments (NPD).

In the last six years, NPD has raised more than £80 million from amateur investors to build care home and to acquire and refurbish hotels.

Two weeks ago ITV News and the Guardian revealed that many of the ventures Gavin Woodhouse had raised money for have stalled, some of his investors aren’t being repaid and millions of pounds appear to be missing from his companies’ accounts.

ITV News and the Guardian have since discovered that Woodhouse’s business has been in trouble for months.

Derrick Towlson invested £75,000 to buy a room in one of Woodhouse's hotels in Wales. Credit: ITV News

At the end of last year NPD already owed investors almost £2million in unpaid returns and Woodhouse had personally borrowed more than £2m from the company.

He’d also put his wife on the payroll. Charlotte Woodhouse was earning £75,000 a year although there’s no evidence she has ever done any work for NPD.

The Intelligence Unit at the Serious Fraud Office is the team which decides whether to pursue an investigation.

Tonight in a statement the Serious Fraud Office said "all matters that are referred to it are assessed," but it added that it "doesn’t comment on the progress of such assessments".

Executives at Northern Powerhouse Developments have admitted they told Gavin Woodhouse that they feared his business was insolvent in December last year, but it continued trading.

Last week a high court judge appointed the insolvency practitioners Duff & Phelps as interim managers to run four of Woodhouse’s companies and said his business model appeared to be "thoroughly dishonest".

Derrick Towson and his wife paid £75,000 to Woodhouse in 2017 for a room in a hotel in Tenby in west Wales. He contacted Action Fraud after Woodhouse missed several repayment deadlines.

"It leaves us feeling angry and rather stupid ... because we’re not wealthy people," Mr Towson told ITV News.

"[Gavin Woodhouse] has got this personality that sells the product and everything with it sounded good but basically I think he’s a spineless coward."

Gavin Woodhouse has always previously denied any wrong-doing. In a statement he said he is "unable to comment in detail on matters that are the subject of ongoing court proceedings.

"I hope to address the issues raised publicly when I am able to do so."