Bristol’s Grosvenor Hotel developer denies wrongdoing over failed rebuild

bristols grosvenor hotel developer denies wrongdoing over failed rebuild - Bristol's Grosvenor Hotel developer denies wrongdoing over failed rebuildImage copyright Google
Image caption Work on Bristol’s Grosvenor Hotel should have been completed by September 2017 but building work stopped

The boss of a development firm stole millions then lied and faked documents to cover it up, a court has heard.

It came after investors paid £7m into a project to turn Bristol’s closed Grosvenor Hotel into student flats that was never completed, the High Court was told.

The now liquidated Grosvenor Property Developers Ltd was behind the project, with each investor injecting £50,000.

Sanjiv Varma – its de facto director – has denied any wrongdoing.

The case against Mr Varma is being brought by the joint-liquidators of Grosvenor Property Developers Ltd.

They are attempting to recover the funds invested in the company and say Mr Varma should face jail for contempt of court because he “fabricated documents” and made “false witness statements”.

Image copyright gunnercooke
Image caption Sanjiv Varma was photographed by a private investigator, who was instructed by liquidators in the case

Speaking for the joint-liquidators, Rory Brown told the court, sitting in London, Mr Varma had also breached an order made in May 2019 to disclose assets.

He said Mr Varma wanted to stop liquidators discovering “money flowing through UAE accounts back to [his] son in the UK and a property purchase”, and to “hide… his very substantial means”.

Mr Brown said the liquidators wanted to question Mr Varma in April 2019, but he had been too unwell to meet them.

But his “medical episode” was faked in order to “mask” him having “stolen all the money,” Mr Brown told the court.

“I have not stolen the money,” Mr Varma replied, telling the court he had been “genuinely unwell” with diabetes.

Mr Varma said he had lost his “wealth” in late 2018, when the Dubai property market collapsed.

‘I had zero money’

He told the court he “did not remember why” he withdrew about £64,000 in cash in Dubai in November 2018.

“Dubai has a cash culture. I was spending only until November 2018, then the accounts got closed and I had zero money,” he said.

“I am living close to a pauper, living out of a suitcase.”

Mr Varma blamed the collapse of the building project on roadworks, which had forced the suspension of construction of the flats.

Judge Alan Johns QC will now take final written submissions before making a ruling on the case.

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