Two men allegedly used money from client’s boat sales to keep business afloat

Two boatyard bosses

from Devon have been accused of swindling customers out of money in order to

finance their struggling business. 

Andrew Bowden and Paul

Randle of Exe Leisure in Topsham Quay allegedly sold boats belonging to clients

and then used the money to pay off business debts between August 2005 and June


Exeter Crown Court

heard this week how a number of brokerage clients were told by the company that

their boats were still up for sale, when they had actually been sold and the

money paid into the company’s trading account.

In addition to this,

six boats were bought on hire purchase by the company and allegedly sold, even

though they still belonged to the finance company.

Exe Leisure went into administration in 2006, leaving a number of boat sellers

and hire purchase companies more than £100,000 out of pocket.

Mr Randle denies

fraudulent trading, while the jury have been told Mr Bowden does not form any

part of this case.

The 48-year-old, who

is currently on trial at Exeter Crown Court, claims he was not involved in

handling money and left the finances to Mr Bowden.

Mr Randle said

previously that he was not aware the company had lost so much money and always believed

there was enough to pay everybody should anything go wrong.

Prosecutor Malcolm

Galloway said the pair “robbed Peter to pay Paul” when the company got into

financial difficulties in 2005 and 2006.

Money from client

brokerage sales should have been kept in a separate account but was instead used

to cover losses, the court heard.

Between August 2005

and June 2006, the company allegedly sold 13 boats for more than £150,000, but

passed just £29,500 on to customers.

Meanwhile, two of the boats

sold were owned by a finance company and have never been traced. 

Mr Galloway said: “This

was a company with significant financial difficulties. Bowden and Randle used

unlawful and illegal ways to keep it afloat.

“When it came to

brokerage, they were keeping other people’s money and putting it into their

main business account rather than keeping it separate.”

The trial continues.