The collapse of a luxury hotel group, that included the Crown Hotel in Amersham, has exposed a £13million fraud involving an “enigmatic” bank manager.
Novtej Dhillon, who owned the string of top-quality hotels, appeared in London's High Court after it was discovered his relationship with a bank employee was the key to his apparent success.
His collapsed empire included luxury boutique hotel, Stoke Place, near Stoke Poges, Amersham's Crown Hotel and the Liongate Hotel, Hampton Court.
Well-respected Andrew Seavers, a bank manager at Clydesdale Bank Plc for 30 years, duped the bank into making £17million in “unauthorised” loans to Dhillon's businesses.
In the High Court, Dhillon tried to blame others for the fraud, but Mr Justice Nugee described him as a “wholly unreliable witness” whose explanations were not worth “any weight at all”.
The judge added that the businessman was a “full complete and knowing participant in this fraud”.
Seavers, who did not profit from the £13million fraud, was taken to Chelsea matches at Stamford Brook by Dhillon and him and his wife celebrated their anniversary at one of the hotels.
The beneficiary of Seavers' dishonesty was Dhillon, who lapped up the cash until the fraud was discovered in 2012.
The High Court heard that Seavers has lost his job, his pension and his home and has had to give more than £1.25 million back to the bank.
Mr Justice Nugee said he found it hard to explain how he had come to throw away his career and a great deal of the bank's money.
“It's very difficult to understand how a well-respected banker could ever have got himself in this position,” said the judge.
However, giving evidence for the bank, Seavers said he was “stressed” and “not in his normal, right-thinking mind” at the time.
In court, the judge accepted that Dhillon was not aware that the loans were unauthorised from the outset, but, by the time he "entered into the conspiracy", his hotels group was already more than £4 million overdrawn.
Dhillon was ordered to repay almost £14 million to the bank, including over £1 million in guarantees.
Both Stoke Place and the Crown Inn have been given a new lease of life. Stoke Place came under new management in January 2016 and Michelin-starred chef Atul Kochhar has opened Hawkyns restaurant at The Crown Inn.