Serious Fraud Office considering investigating Gavin Woodhouse after referral by prominent MP

The business interests of Gavin Woodhouse should be investigated by the Serious Fraud Office and the Financial Conduct Authority, according to an influential MP.

This comes as further details of the entrepreneur’s business dealings have emerged.

John Mann, Labour MP for Bassetlaw, who has been a member of Parliament’s Treasury Select Committee for over a decade, has asked the agencies to look into the care home and hotel refurbishment schemes run by Woodhouse which were first exposed by an ITV News / Guardian investigation.

"This smells a bit like a Ponzi scheme, and it’s so complex it’s hard to be certain, but something is not right here," he said.

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

He added: "And so there needs to be either regulation intervening or to check whether or not this is in fact legal.

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

The SFO says it is aware of the allegations about Gavin Woodhouse.

ITV News and the Guardian understand the SFO is now considering whether to investigate him following the referral from MP John Mann.

Over the last six years, Gavin Woodhouse’s company Northern Powerhouse Developments has raised over £80 million from amateur investors to build care homes and to acquire and refurbish hotels.

But many of those projects are incomplete, some investors are complaining they haven’t been paid their promised returns and around £15 million appears to be missing.

Bear Grylls gave his endorsement of the Afan Valley adventure park project in a promotional video. Credit: PA

Earlier in July, Woodhouse lost control of four of his businesses, when a court ordered insolvency practitioners from Duff & Phelps be appointed interim managers.

A High Court judge ruled Woodhouse’s business model appeared to be "thoroughly dishonest".

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

By the end of 2018, Woodhouse’s company Northern Powerhouse Developments owed investors around £2 million in unpaid returns.

He also owed money to suppliers and sales agents.

At the same time, Woodhouse had personally borrowed more than £2 million from the company.

And he had put his wife on the payroll.

There’s no evidence Charlotte Woodhouse has ever done any work for NPD, but she was earning £75,000 a year.

Derrick Towlson and his wife invested £75,000 to buy a room in one of Woodhouse’s hotels in Tenby in West Wales in February 2017.

They’ve been visiting the resort for over 50 years and so the investment was a financial as well as an emotional decision.

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

When Woodhouse missed several deadlines to pay the expected £75,000 returns, Mr Towlson reported the Halifax-based entrepreneur to Action Fraud.

"We’re not wealthy people," Mr Towlson told ITV News.

"It leaves us angry, feeling rather stupid.

"He’s got this personality that sells the product, and everything with it sounded good, but basically I think he’s a spineless coward the way he has operated," he added.

Gavin Woodhouse denies any wrongdoing and insists investors will be repaid.

He told ITV News "I am 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."