A former seafood entrepreneur who is suing the property developers Nick and Christian Candy told a court he was “fearful for my personal safety” after being followed, hacked and threatened in the course of their dispute.
Mark Holyoake, who has brought a £132m claim against the brothers over a luxury property project in London’s Belgravia, said in witness statements submitted to the High Court on Friday that he had twice reported the Candys to the police.
“I have had people follow me and people seen outside my home and the school of my children, and I am sure that my computer system has been hacked, as I lost significant data and files,” Mr Holyoake said.
He claimed the Candys worked with Cliff Knuckey, a police detective turned private investigator, whom he described as “a person who has been arrested at least twice and has been described as running an ‘organised crime gang’.”
According to Mr Holyoake, the Metropolitan Police Service has agreed to investigate a complaint against the brothers for illegally accessing the national police database. In documents submitted to the court, lawyers for the Candys say there is “no evidence” that Mr Knuckey accessed the database on their behalf.
“I remain fearful for my personal safety as a result of their links to these organisations and people,” Mr Holyoake said in his witness statement. “I have no doubt the closer we get to the trial, the more I will need to protect myself and my family.”
The Candys and their co-defendants in the case, which include CPC, a company headed by Christian Candy, deny all accusations against them. The claims, totalling £132m, centre on the purchase of a London property by Mr Holyoake in 2011.
Mr Holyoake, once a university friend of Nick Candy, obtained a £12m loan from CPC to help him to purchase a £42.5m property in Belgravia called Grosvenor Gardens House, which he wanted to redevelop into luxury flats. He is making a series of claims of blackmail and extortion against the brothers, alleging he was coerced into signing further loan agreements and eventually into selling the property without redeveloping it.
Investors in British Seafood, which collapsed in 2010 and of which Mr Holyoake was chief executive, have also been attending the trial.
Mr Holyoake alleged the Candy brothers also made direct threats against him. In 2012, he said, “the threats increased — these include a threat to life against my unborn child; directly from Christian and a threat delivered by Nick purporting to be on behalf of Christian of physical harm both to myself and my family as he stated Christian was literally on the verge of selling the loan to Russian debt collectors and that I needed to do EVERYTHING that Christian now asked of me going forward to stop this action.”
The Candys and their co-defendants deny making threats, instead accusing Mr Holyoake of making “fantastical and spiteful allegations in order to vex the Candy brothers in and about their business, professional and personal affairs”.
The court was also told on Friday that Guernsey-based CPC is owned by both brothers but is based offshore to avoid tax, according to claims by Mr Holyoake. Nick Candy also runs Candy & Candy, an onshore company that handles interior design.
“There’s no question that Nick and Chris are joint owners of CPC,” Mr Holyoake said. He claimed that “Nick often said that he and his brother were not prepared to pay any tax on profits from their successful developments”.
Mr Holyoake added: “It was for this reason that he said their business had to be moved offshore. He told me he trusted his brother completely and that he was comfortable that he would get this 50 per cent share of the profits tax-free.”
The brothers deny claims that Nick Candy is also an owner of CPC. “CPC was founded by Christian Candy and he was and is at all times the ultimate beneficial owner,” they said in defence documents, adding a denial that Nick Candy “held himself out as co-owner and controlling mind of CPC”.
The case continues.
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