Fraud probe dropped into ex-Leeds United director

By Jessica Elgot, May 27, 2010
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Property tycoon and former Leeds United director Simon Morris has vowed action against West Yorkshire Police who, he claims, "devastated" his life during a three-year probe into fraud allegations, which were dropped this week.

Mr Morris's property empire SRM Holdings was investigated for running fraudulent buy-to-let schemes. The investigation has now been dropped by the Serious Fraud Office, due to insufficient evidence.

But thirty-three-year-old Mr Morris is still charged with conspiracy to blackmail and is due to stand trial together with Jonathan Ashworth, 49, of Hyde, Cheshire. A trial date has not yet been set.

During the fraud investigation, buyers claimed Mr Morris had sold them properties at inflated prices and left them with mortgages they could not repay by letting the properties.

Former Leeds Grammar School pupil Mr Morris had made £69 million by the time he was 30. He became the youngest-ever director of Leeds United in 2004 and was ranked sixth in the Sunday Times Rich List in 2007. His company had a turnover of £80 million in 2006.

But in a BBC Panorama investigation, dozens of people claimed his business, Morris Properties, part of SRM, had bankrupted them. He insisted that the recession had caused the properties to devalue, and has always claimed he sold the properties in good faith.

His business collapsed in 2008 with debts of more than £50 million and he was declared bankrupt last year when he could not repay loans he had personally guaranteed.

Mr Morris told the Yorkshire Evening Post that during the inquiry he had been shunned in the street, his children bullied and his father arrested.

He said: "I have always maintained my innocence. My career, my business and my personal life have been devastated by the past three years.

"I will now be spending a lot of time looking at the allegations and how the investigation was conducted before deciding what I should do next."

Last updated: 3:25pm, May 27 2010