Adrian and Christine Whitehurst, of Stockport, Cheshire, withdrew significant sums from their clients’ accounts, which the leader of the investigation into the malpractice, described as ‘particularly vulnerable individuals’.
Mr Whitehurst was director of the firm from 2 October 2007 to 27 July 2009 and was succeeded by Ms Whitehurst who took up the role until 18 October 2013, at which time, on her resignation, her clients’ accounts were £5,943,939 out of pocket.
The Whitehursts breached the regulations of their consumer credit licence by withdrawing client money and treating it as director’s drawings. To offset the liability for the amounts they owed the company, they sold shares in a speculative overseas property development and First Step Finance, at prices that could not be explained and to their own advantage.
Stolen funds were loaned to companies with limited trading histories and minimal assets which were owned and controlled by family members. Some £678,816 was outstanding and unrecoverable from these companies when First Step went into administration on 28 May 2014.
Robert Clarke, investigations group leader at The Insolvency Service said: “Customers who are forced to use debt management companies are particularly vulnerable individuals which is why the sector is subject to stringent regulation.
“The actions of Mr and Mrs Whitehurst in deliberately misrepresenting the basis on which funds were held and then taking these monies to fund their lavish lifestyle are reprehensible and therefore disqualifications towards the top period allowed by law are entirely appropriate.
“The Insolvency Service will work with partner agencies to pursue such individuals to the full extent of the law.”
Neither party is allowed to be the director of a limited company, directly or indirectly, for the duration of their bans.