Bangkok, July 4 2012
He never took over the family seat - sold by his father to Madame Tussauds - but Guy Greville, the current Earl of Warwick started building luxury homes to beat all on the Thai holiday island of Phuket.
In fact so amazing was his new scheme for people with the odd US$5-US$10 million to spend that the project called Istana last December won the Best International Architecture Award (Multiple Residence) at the Bloomberg TV/Google International Property Awards (IPA) at the Savoy Hotel in London. It has also picked up other prestigious regional awards along the way.
“We are thrilled and humbled by this award,” said Richard Cohen, sales manager of Warwick’s company Prism Estates, not knowing then that his job or lack of it was on the cards.
What the glittering audience at the Savoy were not told however was Istana project which was first advertised in 2007 had not been been built, and work had in fact stopped.
Even today work has only started on two villas, owned by directors of the company, the Earl himself, descendant of Warwick the ‘Kingmaker’ and Briton Richard Shearer. This you might think makes all these property award ceremonies, of which there are more than a few in Thailand, all a bit rum even though the architecture for this one was rather stunning.
Shortly after the awards ceremony the company let go Richard Cohen and its Canadian public relations guru Duane Lennie, both of whom on parting claimed they were owed considerable sums.
And two months ago Shearer himself left the Thai holiday island after, but not necessarily because, lawyers representing two buyers who demanded their cash back, said they were filing charges against him for bouncing cheques to the value of US$3 million – criminal offences in Thailand. He has not however returned.
“It has now become apparent that there was never any prospect of such cheques being honoured and Shearer as a director/shareholder of Prism knew or must have known that they would be so dishonoured and has thereby perpetrated a fraud.,” says a letter issued from the offices of Hong Kong Lawyers Oldham Li & Nie and sent to interested parties in Thailand on May 10th.
The lawyers represent a British company director with toy factories in China and a Singapore based American business consultant.
Plans are now in place to treat the ailing project and bring it back on course; perhaps along the lines of what the Earl's ancestor said to Henry IV.
According to the Australian publication 'Lawyers Weekly' of February 16th this year:
"Brereton was found guilty of tax avoidance, releasing trust monies without permission, and acting on a property transaction in which he had an interest. VCAT noted in its decision that 'the overall seriousness of the proven charges would have ordinarily warranted a suspension from practice as a lawyer for a period'.
However, VCAT took into account the fact that Brereton had not renewed his practising certificate since 2008 and had thus not engaged in legal practice during this period.McGarvie said the case highlights the potential consequences of lawyers mixing business with professional obligations.
“Lawyers cannot treat their clients’ trust money as if it is their own,” he said. “They have an obligation to handle trust money in accordance with the relevant legislation, legal profession rules and regulations.”
Brereton was also banned from operating companies for three years, but that order has now expired.
His job now involves quite some considerable revamping at Istana which I understand involves building smaller villas to better utilize the land near the island's Naithon Beach and the scrapping of a lavish 'concierge' near the main gate.
It may in fact differ significantly from the project which won the awards.
Now the buyers may be asked to buy as the development is actually built rather than after. So far some seven of a once proposed nineteen plots of land have been sold.
Neither the Earl nor Michael Brereton would comment and if the funding is indeed in place, said lawyer Gordon Oldham, who has gone to the south of France to do ‘the season’, his clients would like to see some of it.
The Earl of Warwick however has enough on his plate he is currently the Chairman and Joint Managing Director of Central Asia Resources, a Wembley, West Australia based company currently digging for gold in Kazakhstan.
A Flying Sporran Report
This years favourite legal letter so far:
Dear Matthew V McEvily,
I have amended Richard Cohen's title to sales manager. Let's not give him the airs and graces of your esteemed boss. However I do feel you have rather brushed him off in an undiplomatic manner and I am surprised you let him hold all those awards.
I do not understand your second half sentence: Not Michael Brereton as your internet blog states. I have not suggested Brereton is legally representing the Earl of Warwick if that's what you mean. I am not sure Michael is legally representing anything at the moment. I think he announced he was taking a break from all that stuff having been hounded in Australia.
You cannot demand that I cease further publication, although personally I think one story is enough for the time being.
Please inform me in what form and wording you would like this retraction to take.
Believe me, apart from perhaps elevating Richard Cohen, there is no oversight here so I will not be adhering to any demands until you can point out to me in a clear fashion the alleged libel or libels that is/are irking you some much.
I find it scarcely believeable that the Earl of Warwick would wish you to issue summonses of 'criminal and civil' libel on his behalf. Is there something perhaps you are not saying here?