Serious Fraud Office finally confirm British Seafood probe Published: 06 July, 2010
THE Serious Fraud Office has finally confirmed that it is investigating the affairs of the British Seafood Group which collapsed in February.
A spokeswoman for the SFO told Fishupdate: “We have been asked to look into allegations of fraud and false accounting. Because the investigation is ongoing I cannot comment any further at this stage.”
The request to examine the financial affairs of the group leading up to the collapse is almost certain to have come from some of the creditors who have lost millions of pounds when the group was plunged into administration..However, Mark Holyoake the founder and chief executive of British Seafood, has categorically denied any wrong doing and is certain to strongly contest the allegations if the SFO investigation goes further.
He and other senior executives regard the matter as standard commercial dispute that was caused in large part by the credit crunch and lack of trade credit — ie the withdrawal of funds which allows businesses to borrow money to pay suppliers until they are paid by their customers.Whatever the reasons the collapse of British Seafood was one of the biggest shocks in the industry for many years and affected fish related activities across the world, particularly in the Far East where the company sourced shellfish and other seafood for the UK market. In fact it was the biggest UK buyer of fish from Asia. In Grimsby its most recent acquisition Five Star Fish, was sold to poultry magnate Ranjit Boparan who also owns the Harry Ramsden fish and chip restaurant chain, for around £35-million. Other parts of the group have also been sold off, one to a management buyout.
The biggest loser in the debacle was the private equity company 3i which had invested around £75 million on British Seafood, but together with other banks, the total losses to the finance industry and others were over £200 million.