World Cup hero Sir Geoff Hurst ‘lost hundreds of thousands of pounds in Spanish property con’
World Cup hero Sir Geoff Hurst lost hundreds of thousands of pounds in a Spanish property con, a court heard.
The former footballer today launched a High Court action to recover £600,000 he invested in luxury Spanish apartments.
Sir Geoff has joined forces with six other investors to sue businessman Mark Cordner for a total of £2million.
They allege that, in 2003 and 2004, because of Mr Cordner’s deceit, negligent misstatement, breach of fiduciary duty and wrongful conspiracy, they handed over the full purchase price for seven off-plan apartments in a development in Marbella.
The investors handed over the money for a development called Aloha Royal, near Puerto Banus, southern Spain, upfront and without security, the court heard.
They say they are now in a position where their rights over the apartments have either been destroyed or rendered worthless.
Sir Geoff, 68, who is due to give evidence during the five-day hearing on liability, also has a claim against Mr Cordner arising from a loan against another apartment.
Their counsel, Peter Knox QC, told Mr Justice Keith that Mr Cordner, from Knebworth, Hertfordshire, told the investors that they were buying at a discount.
He said Mr Cordner also lied to two of them by saying that football manager Harry Redknapp, Hurst’s fellow 1966 hero Martin Peters and dancer Michael Flatley were also buying at the site.
The claimants, all of whom except Sir Geoff knew Mr Cordner as a friend or financial adviser, did not take legal advice and say they were told that Mr Cordner would take care of the legal side of things.
But all that happened was that they were sent sales contracts that stated the owners of the property were two U.S.-incorporated companies, one of which had already been struck off, the court heard.
In fact, the owner of the development site was a Spanish company, Azul Properties SL, half of which was owned by the company that was struck off and half by another unknown company.
Mr Knox said that the way Mr Cordner raised the upfront payments was contrary to Spanish law, because he did not arrange for the issue of a bank guarantee for their return in the event that the apartments were not built, or for them to be placed in a special separate account.
He added that without the investors’ knowledge, in June 2004, Azul sold on the site to another Spanish company, Duja, which completed the building of the apartments in 2007.
Problems emerged in 2008 when Duja repudiated the claims to all seven apartments, alleging that it had been the victim of fraud.
Most seriously, said counsel, it appeared that the whole development plot was subject to a £20.85million mortgage and it was not clear how many, if any, of the apartments had actually been sold – apart from those sold to the claimants.
‘It now appears that Duja is insolvent and that the bank debt will swallow up all the equity in the property, and thus defeat any claims the claimants may have for the transfer of their apartments.’
Mr Cordner admits that he made some of the representations alleged by the seven: named as Sir Geoff; David Barkley; Darren Innocent; Terence Hopley; Paul Kenyon; Martin Roberts and Verna Roberts – but denies they were made deceitfully or negligently.
He says that he too fell victim to one Michael Hone – whose whereabouts are unknown – and that he had invested and lost his own money, time and reputation in Aloha Royal and another development, Aldea Beach.
Mr Knox said that Mr Cordner’s claim that he played only a minor role in events and was a mere salesman was ‘patently untrue’ and said that he was ‘in partnership’ with Mr Hone.
The hearing was adjourned until Friday and Sir Geoff is expected to give evidence on Monday.
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