SFO - Serious Fraud Office

Facia Group

In the mid 1990s a retail "empire", valued by some analysts to be £100 million at its peak, was developed by Stephen Hinchliffe.  Well known high street names such as Sock Shop, Salisburys, Saxone, Red or Dead, Freeman Hardy & Willis, Contessa and others totalling around 850 shops employing over 8,000 staff became part of his Facia Group. 

In 1996 Facia went into administration and when DTI inspectors examined the accounts it appeared that money had been extracted for Hinchliffe's personal benefit.  Facia's company secretary Christopher Harrison was also implicated.

The ensuing SFO investigation, with South Yorkshire Police, discovered that Hinchliffe had set up a company account in the name of Chase Montague Ltd to funnel the money from Facia Group.  Facia correspondence and board minutes were falsified and backdated to disguise the true nature of the fraudulent money flows.  The investigation also  uncovered that Hinchliffe made corrupt payments to bank executives at United Mizrahi Bank of Israel (London Branch) to by-pass the bank's proper approval process and obtain a £13 million loan to finance his acquisitions. (Facia could not raise capital on the stock market).

The whole proceedings in this complex case were split into two trials; one for the bank corruption, the other for defrauding the Facia Group.  The final outcome was that by 2003 the five defendants in this case were convicted and imprisoned with the central character, Hinchliffe, receiving a total of five years, three months for both prosecutions.