Arrests made in Signature Group investigation

Four people are arrested as part of a Serious Fraud Office investigation into Liverpool property and hotel development business Signature Group. Tony McDonough reports

The Shankly Hotel
The Shankly Hotel in Victoria Street, Liverpool


Four people were arrested following raids at three residences in Merseyside and Greater Manchester as part of an investigation into the Signature Group.

Supported by officers from the National Crime Agency, the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) carried out the raids earlier on Wednesday.

Based in Liverpool, Signature Group was founded by married couple Lawrence and Katie Kenwright. Operating for seven years, it specialised in buying mainly historic buildings and converting them into hotels or apartments.

In Liverpool its developments included the Shankly Hotel and Dixie Dean Hotel in Victoria Street and the 30 James Street Hotel, close to the waterfront.

It also embarked on redevelopments of iconic landmarks including Belfast’s Scottish Mutual Building and the Coal Exchange in Cardiff. There was also a cruise liner that was marketed as a “flotel” to be moored off Canary Wharf in London.

According to the SFO, investors loaned money to Signature or purchased a hotel room, apartment or office space in one of the group’s properties, with promised returns on their investment of between 8% and 15%. The business collapsed into administration with losses of up to £140m.

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Nick Ephgrave QPM, director of the SFO, said: “The scheme offered attractive returns and used much-loved local landmarks to lure investors. We have people up and down the country left out of pocket, and buildings left derelict at the centre of our cities.

“Today’s arrests and searches will help us reconstruct exactly what happened. This is now an active criminal investigation.”

This is the fourth new investigation launched since Mr Ephgrave joined the UK’s specialist anti-fraud agency in September.

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