Three directors behind a hotel room investment scheme have been disqualified for a total of 25 years by the Insolvency Service.
Ronald Albert Popely, a Maltese citizen residing in Gibraltar; Darren James Popely, and Stephen William Dickson ran a company called Oak Forest Partnership Limited – previously known as Oak Property Partnership Limited.
The firm was incorporated in 2010 and bought and refurbished an hotel in Edenbridge, Kent called Hever Hotel.
Following the renovations, the trio of directors offered investors the opportunity to invest in hotel rooms.
Over three years, they leased around 82 rooms to investors for at least £8.9m ($11.1m, €10.4m), the Insolvency Service said.
In return, investors were promised 10% of the purchase price every year for 10 years, with the developer having the option to buy back the rooms after five years at the original price.
But the firm went into insolvency in February 2017 with creditors, which included hotel room investors, claiming nearly £15m in the liquidation.
This sparked an investigation by the Insolvency Service which discovered that Oak had entered into three “questionable agreements” that benefitted the company and left investors dry.
According to the Insolvency Service, the trio made £20.6m worth of payments – including £7.1m paid to companies connected to Oak, where Ronald Popely was a director as well.
When Ronald Popely was working at the unnamed connected company, he breached a previous nine-year ban as he was not supposed to act as a company director in that time. The breach overlapped the ban by two years, the Insolvency Service said.
As a result, Ronald and Darren Popely both received nine-year ban starting from 12 May and 18 May 2022, respectively; while Dickson was disqualified for seven years from 29 April 2022.
The liquidators of Oak Forest Partnership are still trying to establish whether funds or their recovery are viable options.
Dave Elliott, chief investigator at the Insolvency Service, said: “While people were thinking they were using their money in genuine investment opportunities the directors were entering into questionable agreements that would benefit themselves ahead of the investors.
“Ronald and Darren Popely, as well as Stephen Dickson, were aware of the implications of what they were doing and their bans should serve as a stark warning that if directors abuse the trust of their investors, we have recourse to remove you from the corporate arena for a significant amount of time.”