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.