Ex-Leeds director Simon Morris ‘stashed gold bars in Swiss bank accounts’

Former Leeds United Director Simon Morris at Newcastle Magistrates Court.
Former Leeds United Director Simon Morris at Newcastle Magistrates Court.
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DISGRACED former Leeds United director Simon Morris hid gold bars and millions of pounds in Swiss bank accounts from creditors as he was made bankrupt, a court heard.

A court yesterday heard for the first time, details of the charges the shamed property tycoon is facing under the Insolvency Act.

Newcastle Magistrates Court heard the alleged offences relate to him failing to declare the extent of his estate to the official receiver between 2009 and 2010.

During the brief hearing, Lorraine Harris, prosecuting on behalf of the Department of Business Innovation and Skills, said Morris was a property developer whose business dealings began to attract media attention in 2007.

Ms Harris said the Bank of Ireland began to reconsider loans made to Morris following a 2008 BBC Panorama documentary about him and he came under increasing financial pressure.

The prosecutor said: “Mr Morris sold properties and moved funds to Credit Suisse bank accounts totalling over one million pounds and into the millions and the removal of of gold bullion.”

Morris, formerly of Ling Lane, Scarcroft, Leeds, spoke only to confirm his name and give the court his new address - Beech Lodge, Wetherby Road, Bardsey - during the brief hearing.

Court papers had Morris listed as living at Claybury Hall, Repton Park, Woodford Green, Essex.

No pleas were made in relation to the charges and Morris was granted unconditional bail until a plea and directions hearing at Newcastle Crown Court next month.

The first charge against Morris states: “On May 17 2009 at Leeds, being a debtor, fraudulently omitted to do an act. namely declare eight one kilogram bars of gold and Credit Suisse Bank accounts...for the purpose of obtaining the approval of your creditors to a proposal for a voluntary agreement under the Insolvency Act 1986.”

The second charge relates to Morris failing to disclose details of his estate to the official receiver between October 8 2009 and December 14 2010.

Morris was jailed in October 2011 after being found guilty of conspiracy to blackmail his former partner, estate agent Hedley Manton, out of £100,000.

The father-of-four sent bodyguard Johnathon Ashworth to Mr Manton’s offices in Headingley in March 2009 and stab threats were made unless he parted with the six-figure sum.

The former Leeds Grammar School pupil was released early from his 18 moth prison sentence in April last year.

The trial, also at Newcastle Crown Court, heard Morris, facing a £3.5m bankruptcy petition following the collapse of his property empire, sent Ashworth, of Greater Manchester, to intimidate Mr Manton into repaying a disputed £100,000 loan.

Mr Manton was said to be left “shaking and pale” after being visited three times by Ashworth, who weighed 21 stone, had a scarred face and biceps “the size of an average man’s thighs”.

As well as being convicted of conspiracy to blackmail, Ashworth pleaded guilty to possessing two offensive weapons - a CS spray canister and a knuckleduster - which were found in his car on the day he was arrested at Mr Manton’s office.

Police said the blackmail plot smacked “more of the criminal underworld than the world of legitimate business.”

By the age of 30, Morris was one of the UK’s wealthiest men with a fortune estimated at £69m, a family man on the Sunday Times Young Rich List who had been the youngest director of Leeds United football club.

Less than three years later he was declared bankrupt.Details of his property companies’ spectacular collapse were revealed at his blackmail trial, where he blamed his predicament on the credit crunch and a downturn in the housing market.