Bristol Grosvenor hotel boss sentenced to 21 months in jail

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image copyrightgunnercooke
image captionSanjiv Varma was photographed in recent years by a private investigator who was instructed by liquidators in the case

A property developer has been sentenced to 21 months in jail for contempt at the High Court.

Grosvenor Property Developers Ltd planned to turn the old Grosvenor Hotel in Bristol into student flats.

The project remains unfinished and liquidators have been investigating.

Sanjiv Varma was sentenced in his absence after being convicted of making false statements and breaching court orders to disclose assets. An arrest warrant has been issued.

image copyrightGoogle
image captionWork on Bristol's Grosvenor Hotel should have been completed by September 2017 but building work stopped

He was found guilty in July of eight counts of contempt and was also ordered to pay £268,000 of costs.

Sentencing at the High Court on Thursday is the latest in complex and ongoing proceedings that involved more than 30 hearings and three trials in London and Dubai.

The work on the Grosvenor Hotel should have been completed by September 2017 but was not carried out.

His firm previously denied any wrongdoing but the High Court ruled Varma had lied about his assets in July 2020.

'Significant milestone'

Séamas Gray, a partner at Gunnercooke which liquidated Varma's company, said Varma had "no compunction" in lying and "willingly disregarded" court orders.

He said: "We were dealing with monies often transferred through solicitors' firms, between jurisdictions, and all the while with Mr Varma hiding."

Some investors sank more than £50,000 each into the project, having been told to expect good returns on their money.

The "high-spec" self-contained student studios were marketed at £99,000.

Angry investors had threatened legal action if their money was not returned.

Another Gunnercooke partner, Alyson Reilly added: "While today's sentencing is a significant milestone in the case, it certainly isn't the end of the road.

"Whilst we hope that it brings some sense of justice to victims of the fraud, work continues on their behalf to recover funds that were misappropriated by Mr Varma and provide a return to creditors."

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