FORMER Leeds United director Simon Morris hid £1.5m of cash and gold bullion in Swiss bank accounts in a bid to give creditors the “run around” as his property empire collapsed, a court heard.
The disgraced property tycoon was yesterday handed a suspended prison sentence after pleading guilty to two offences under the Insolvency Act.
A day before yesterday’s hearing at Newcastle Crown Court, Morris signed a form agreeing to pay £500,000 to the trustee of bankruptcy.
Simon Batiste, prosecuting, told the court Morris’s creditors were prepared to accept the amount, meaning they will receive between 1p and 2p in the pound of the money he owes.
The hearing heard Morris, 35, squirrelled away vast sums of cash in off-shore accounts as bankruptcy loomed.
Morris faced a financial “nightmare” when the property market began to collapse and the Bank of Ireland began to call in debt of £2.6m over their concerns about the way he operated.
Investigations revealed the Leeds-born entrepreneur re-mortgaged properties and gave away cash to business associates and family members in a bid to deceive creditors and the official receiver.
Morris, formerly of Ling Lane, Scarcroft, Leeds, pleaded guilty to an offence of fraudulently failing to declare eight one kilogram bars of gold and Credit Suisse Bank accounts to creditors.
He also admitted a charge of failing to disclose property to the official receiver between October 8 2009 and December 14 2010.
Morris, who now lives in Ilford, Essex, was given a 20-month prison sentence, suspended for two years, placed on an electronically monitored curfew, between the hours of 8.30pm and 5am, for four months, and ordered to do 200 hours unpaid work.
Mr Batiste told the court the Bank of Ireland put 12 of Morris’s companies into administration in October 2008.
He said: “It is clear from this date Mr Morris would have realised that his personal financial position was hopeless.
“It is the prosecution’s case that he therefore made a concerted effort to hide his assets from the relevant authorities.”
The prosecutor said Morris signed false declaration, first to his creditors as he sought to enter into an Individual Voluntary Arrangement with them and then to the official receiver as he was made bankrupt.
Mr Batiste added: “The defendant, upon realising his business empire was collapsing, launched a sophisticated and concerted campaign to hide his assets, deceive his creditors and to continue to benefit dishonestly from funds that ought to have been for the benefit of his creditors.”
The court also heard that, in addition to serving a prison sentence for blackmail, Morris has another conviction which he received in France for failing to pay a hotel bill. He was given a suspended sentence for that offence.
Christopher Knox, mitigating, said Morris had started a new life in the south with his wife and children and had a new job working in London. Mr Knox said his client’s depth of knowledge in property investment had proved “invaluable” to his new employer and he was a hard worker.
He added that Morris had been complying well with the probation service since his release from prison.