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Bankrupt antique dealer sent to jail

PUBLISHED: 08:35 02 April 2009 | UPDATED: 08:40 06 July 2010

Barry Spearing

Barry Spearing

A bankrupt antiques dealer who went on the run to Bulgaria after swindling creditors in a £1.9 million fraud has been jailed for 10 years.

Barry Spearing tried to hide antiques worth up to £750,000 in a Lowestoft warehouse.

A bankrupt antiques dealer who went on the run to Bulgaria after swindling creditors in a £1.9m fraud has been jailed for 10 years.

Barry Spearing, who owned the once-thriving Wrentham Antiques, near Southwold, before it mysteriously closed six years ago, tried to hide antiques worth up to £750,000 in a Lowestoft warehouse after telling a customs officer he had got rid of the stock, a court heard.

Spearing, 48, also sold half a dozen properties below their market value and carried out a £200,000 fraud against his bank, Ipswich Crown Court was told yesterday.

In January 2006, Spearing, of Green Drive, Lowestoft, was found guilty in his absence of 10 offences relating to a £1.9m fraud dating back to 2002.

The offences, which Spearing denied, included three charges of false representation on land registration, four offences of using false instruments and making gift or transfer of property on company property before bankruptcy.

Following his conviction, he was ordered to pay a £1,873,870 confiscation order or face seven years in prison.

After three years on the run in Bulgaria, the authorities finally caught up with Spearing and he was extradited back to the UK earlier this year.

Yesterday, Judge David Goodin jailed Spearing for three-and-a-half years for the fraud and directed that the seven-year sentence for failing to pay the confiscation order would be served consecutively.

During Spearing's trial, the court heard that Wrentham Antiques had a turnover of more than £1m. However, in November 2002 he was declared bankrupt with total liabilities of more than £2m.

James Pavry, prosecuting, said that Spearing tried to manipulate his assets as he approached bankruptcy so creditors would not get as much money from him.

He said Spearing gave the deeds for three properties he owned in Kessingland and Lowestoft to a friend as security for a £75,000 loan and then asked his solicitors to apply for new land certificates, claiming he had lost the original documents.

Once the certificates were replaced, he sold six properties, including his own six-bedroom home, the Old Rectory in Pakefield, for only £890,000 to a man called Colin Hill.

He then negotiated with the new owner, to whom he claimed to owe £400,000, for his family to remain in The Old Rectory for at least two years. He also arranged that under the terms of the sale of the properties, £400,000 would pay off the loan to Mr Hill.

However, Mr Pavrey said that no documentation relating to the alleged loan from Mr Hill was ever found. "He deprived his estate of £400,000 which in bankruptcy could have gone to his unsecured creditors," he added. He also claimed that Spearing had sold antiques worth up to £1m to Mr Hill for £100,000.

Spearing had also dishonestly used blank cheques given to him by a Canadian business acquaintance to pay £327,000 into his bank. He had then used accounts belonging to relatives to launder the money, which resulted in a £200,000 loss to his bank.

Stephen Spence, for Spearing, said his client had fled to Bulgaria after receiving threats and that there was no evidence of him leading a "fancy" lifestyle. He added Spearing's business had been a victim of its own success, which led to it expanding too quickly.

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