A request from a Preston-based insolvency practitioner has led to a series of raids on the home of a British citizen by New Zealand police – uncovering a hoard of gold bars, silver coins and foreign banknotes hidden in safes and secret compartments in the home of a retired British psychiatrist.
The High Court at Hamilton has been the scene of civil proceedings against Alan Geraint Simpson, 68 who was declared bankrupt by a British court in 2009. In reality he was hoarding gold, silver and foreign money worth an estimated £1.1million ($2.3million NZD).
On 17 September 2010 their Government was asked to seize property subject to the UK bankruptcy order, setting a global precedent. The Hamilton High Court judge ruled that the New Zealand courts must recognise the English bankruptcy order against Mr Simpson and assist in the investigation and recovery of assets – a ruling which led to the first in a series of raids of Mr Simpson’s house on 20 September 2010.
During the first visit to Mr Simpson’s home, a specialist police team found $1million NZD in gold, silver and foreign currency. A second visit, based on evidence obtained from Simpson’s builder, led investigators to secret compartments – uncovering another $1million NZD in gold and silver. Finally Mr Simpson surrendered a further $300,000 NZD in silver.
Steven Williams, partner at the UK’s leading business recovery specialist Begbies Traynor was appointed in 2009 by the Official Receiver in the UK to administer the estate of Mr Simpson. He said:
“This is entirely new ground we are treading. In what we believe to be the first use of the laws utilised, the Official Assignee in New Zealand has been appointed by the court at our request to assist in seizing assets relating to British bankruptcy.
“The £1.1million treasure trove found in Mr Simpson’s home paints a different picture entirely to that of a retired psychiatrist living on a modest pension – spending, according to himself, a mere £170 a week.
“At this stage, we are awaiting the court’s decision on whether it will have to adjudicate on who the fortune belongs to but we are confident that old debts will be rightfully settled.”
It all began two decades ago when Mr Simpson’s insurance underwriting syndicate at Lloyd's – faced with massive bills for settlements in US courts – passed the cost to its underwriters, of which Mr Simpson was one.
In 1998, Simpson was ordered to pay in excess of £200,000 but instead he launched a counter-claim against Lloyd’s for fraud and failure of duty. He lost, and in 2005 Mr Simpson was ordered to pay up yet again. In 2009 Lloyd's bankrupted Mr Simpson and by then he was living in New Zealand.