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Gas directors jailed after accounts scam

Two former directors of a liquefied petroleum gas business which collapsed under £45 million worth of debts were sentenced to jail by Liverpool Crown court earlier today. 

Alta Gas founder and managing director Peter Bradley, and the financial controller and director Peter Stott were sentenced to four and two years respectively after pleading guilty to false accounting in March earlier this year. 

Merseyside-based Alta Gas, which had seven filling plants and 30 depots nationwide, went into administration in 2001 citing losses of £45m. Approximately 250 jobs were lost as a result of the collapse. 

The collapse of the firm followed a period of due diligence of the business undertaken by accountants PricewaterhouseCoopers instructed by the venture capitalist Barclays Capital, which became concerned with the business’ financial position.  

A sophisticated system of false accounts that presented a fake picture of a profitable company, one which was designed to appeal to investment bankers, was subsequently discovered.

Before the company’s true financial position emerged, the two directors had been engaged in talks with Barclays to secure an additional £70m capital injection in excess of its £6.5m overdraft facility. A further investigation by Deloitte & Touche was commissioned by Mezzanine Management UK, which had loaned the two directors £30m in 2000.

It emerged that fictitious sales of at least £27m had been entered into the company’s accounts. An investigation by the Serious Fraud Office and the Merseyside Police was launched in 2001.   

Both men denied the allegations at first, but changed their plea to guilty just before the case went to trial at Liverpool Crown Court in late March this year.