The former post office in Preston was meant to become a hotel before the Signature Group company involved went bust. Credit: via archive

Signature Group investigated for £140m property fraud

Four arrests have been made by the Serious Fraud Office in the case, with three residences raided in Greater Manchester and Merseyside. The names of those arrested will not be released until they have been charged.

Lawrence Kenwright was the chief executive of Signature Group, a property empire that sought to build a series of apartments, offices, and hotels across the UK. Kenwright and his wife, Katie Kenwright, declared bankruptcy in January after many of the group’s subsidiaries fell into administration with losses of up to £140m.

Signature Group’s development activity focused on refurbishing historic buildings, including the former post office building in Preston, Millennium House in Liverpool, and the grade two-listed Victoria Mill in Miles Platting. Outside the North West, projects included the Coal Exchange in Cardiff and the Scottish Mutual Building in Belfast. In 2020, the first six companies of Signature Group collapsed, with four more going under in 2022.

Signature’s projects had been funded by more than a thousand international and national investors who either loaned the company money or purchased a unit outright. These investors were promised returns of between 8% and 15%, according to the SFO.

“The scheme offered attractive returns and used much-loved local landmarks to lure investors,” said Nick Ephgrave, director of the SFO.

“We have people up and down the country left out of pocket, and buildings left derelict at the centre of our cities,” he continued. “Today’s arrests and searches will help us reconstruct exactly what happened. This is now an active criminal investigation.”

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By Julia Hatmaker

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