A beguiling story emerges from a press report yesterday. A Grade 2 listed building goes up in flames on a prestigious and expensive site in Woolton. No one yet knows how the mystery blaze began, whether by accident or arson; but the rumour mill turns. The developers had high hopes for top end luxury homes on the sought-after site. Their names? North Point Global.
The name rang a bell whilst reading this tale of woe. Checking back, I saw where I had come across this firm. The business-to-business website “Place North West Place“ had featured the company as “the development arm of PHD1” and quoted its chairman, Peter McInnes.
According to press reports last January, Mr McInnes was accused by the police of money laundering in a Proceeds of Crime hearing in Preston. Shortly after this hearing, the PHD1 Group of companies was wound up, and the Bilt group was registered to take its place. “Place North West“ had also billed Mr McInnes as chairman of the PHD1 group, although he was never registered at Companies House as an officer or director of the group. However, director of the new Bilt group was Julie McInnes who, I am told, is the sister of Peter McInnes. He apparently now resides in Dubai from where he directs his business interests.
Curiously, I understand that the interests of PHD1 in various projects were transferred seamlessly to Bilt companies. They include massive projects at Chinatown and Pall Mall. Coincidentally, North Point Global list these same sites on their website, as part of their portfolio. It raises a simple question: how does this happen? The principal of a company is accused in court by the police of money laundering; the court is reminded that his previous business partner was convicted of drug importation; yet his business interests seem to flourish unhindered.
The question of due diligence arises amongst those who allow this to happen. Now, I know that the mayor and council in Liverpool rate transparency and accountability as rather low on their scale of priorities (remember, they abolished their own scrutiny panel!); but when contracts for development appear to be falling like confetti, surely someone, somewhere, should be looking at the bona-fides of the self-styled “developers“ involved. At present, bankrupts, con men and convicted criminals appear to be flourishing without anyone batting an eye lid. Is that the city we want?