James Ferguson, 48, from High Eldwick, in Bingley, was convicted and sentenced at Bradford Crown Court after an investigation by The Insolvency Service and a full criminal investigation and prosecution by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills.
Investigators found, at a time when two of his creditors were pursuing him, he transferred £29,920 to his partner Gillian Calvert to put the money beyond their reach. Then, just 13 days later on November 26, 2009, he declared himself bankrupt in an attempt to cancel out their claims against him. He was convicted of one charge of fraudulently disposing of an asset and ordered to pay £4,500 costs.
Ferguson was already the subject of a bankruptcy restrictions order (BRO) following the initial Insolvency Service investigation. It found that in the seven weeks prior to declaring himself bankrupt, and knowing he was insolvent, Ferguson disposed of more than £100,000 of assets to the clear detriment of his creditors. The Service secured a BRO against Ferguson for seven years from August 11, 2011.
The Department for Business said the business transfer agent, who worked at buying and selling companies particularly restaurants, pubs and bars, had seen work suffer from falling values in the property market in 2008, which meant he was forced to sell properties he had contracted to buy at a loss.
When the developers of some properties he had contracted to buy pursued him for payment under the contract, he claimed he did not have the funds to pay and instead offered a modest sum for settlement. The reality was, however, he had received considerable amounts into his bank account, including £59,508 from the sale of his home in September 2009 which was enough to pay a sizeable proportion of his creditors. Instead, he chose to transfer more than half to his partner.
Deputy Chief Investigation Officer Mike Williams said: “By choosing to remove funds from his estate, Mr Ferguson not only placed his property outside the reach of his creditors and his trustee in bankruptcy, he also sought to undermine the bankruptcy regime by circumventing an order of the court.”