Boatyard accused of swindling clients out of money
Yachting & Boating World: Two boatyard bosses from Devon have been accused of swindling customers out of of thousands of pounds in order to finance their struggling business.
Andrew Bowden and Paul Randle of Exe Leisure in Topsham Quay allegedly sold boats belonging to clients and then used the money to pay off business debts between August 2005 and June 2006.
Exeter Crown Court heard this week how a number of brokerage clients were told by the company that their boats were still up for sale, when they had actually been sold and the money paid into the company’s trading account.
In addition to this, six boats were bought on hire purchase by the company and allegedly sold, even though they still belonged to the finance company.
Exe Leisure went into administration in 2006, leaving a number of boat sellers and hire purchase companies more than £100,000 out of pocket.
Mr Randle denies fraudulent trading, while the jury have been told Mr Bowden does not form any part of this case. The 48-year-old, who is currently on trial at Exeter Crown Court, claims he was not involved in handling money and left the finances to Mr Bowden.
Mr Randle said previously that he was not aware the company had lost so much money and always believed there was enough to pay everybody should anything go wrong.
Prosecutor Malcolm Galloway said the pair “robbed Peter to pay Paul” when the company got into financial difficulties in 2005 and 2006. Money from client brokerage sales should have been kept in a separate account but was instead used to cover losses, the court heard.
Between August 2005 and June 2006, the company allegedly sold 13 boats for more than £150,000, but passed just £29,500 on to customers.
Meanwhile, two of the boats sold were owned by a finance company and have never been traced. Mr Galloway said: “This was a company with significant financial difficulties. Bowden and Randle used unlawful and illegal ways to keep it afloat.
“When it came to brokerage, they were keeping other people’s money and putting it into their main business account rather than keeping it separate.”
The trial continues.