Serious Fraud Office arrest four in Signature raids

30 James Street

The Serious Fraud Office (SFO) has today raided three residences and made four arrests in Merseyside and Greater Manchester as it announced it is investigating Signature Group, a business that attracted over a thousand UK and international investors in the redevelopment of iconic landmarks including Belfast’s Scottish Mutual Building and the Coal Exchange in Cardiff.

The Signature Group operated for over seven years, buying up predominantly historic buildings within the UK for redevelopment into luxury hotels, residential apartments and office spaces. Investors loaned money to Signature or purchased a hotel room, apartment or office space in one of the group’s properties, with promised returns on their investment of between 8% and 15%. The business collapsed into administration with losses of up to £140 million.

The business was founded by Liverpool property developer, Lawrence Kenwright.

Kenwright’s empire started in the form of serviced apartments on Liverpool’s Victoria Street, which quickly grew to a sprawling hotels empire in Liverpool and stretching as far as Manchester, Belfast and Cardiff, all aimed at the stags and hens leisure sector.

In 2018 Kenwright announced plans to transform Liverpool’s Cavern Walks retail centre into a luxury hotel.

Properties in the group’s portfolio included Millennium House in Liverpool as well as a cruise liner that was marketed as a “flotel” to be moored off Canary Wharf in London and travel to Ibiza.

The Serious Fraud Office (SFO) is conducting an investigation into collapsed business Signature Group in relation to a suspected £140 million fraud, involving 1000 investors from around the globe.

Today (21 February 2024) the SFO raided three residences and made four arrests in Merseyside and Greater Manchester.

This is the fourth new investigation launched since Director Nick Ephgrave QPM joined the UK’s specialist anti-fraud agency in September.

Today’s SFO operation was supported by the National Crime Agency (NCA).

 Nick Ephgrave QPM, Director of the Serious Fraud Office, said:

“The scheme offered attractive returns and used much-loved local landmarks to lure investors.

 “We have people up and down the country left out of pocket, and buildings left derelict at the centre of our cities.

“Today’s arrests and searches will help us reconstruct exactly what happened. This is now an active criminal investigation.”

In June 2023 a German hotel company, RIMC Hotels & Resorts, acquired the 30 James Street hotel (pictured) out of administration, for an undisclosed sum.