Exmouth hotelier cleared of fraud charge

PUBLISHED: 13:45 14 December 2018 | UPDATED: 13:04 17 December 2018

Exeter Crown Court. Picture: Archant

Exeter Crown Court. Picture: Archant

Archant

Mr Nightingale accused the bank of ruining his business by forcing him to take out loan swaps.

An Exmouth hotelier has been cleared of fraud after being accused of conning a bank into lending him almost half a million pounds by forging his wife’s signature.

Paul Nightingale, 64, of Louisa Terrace, admitted forging the signature while transferring a business loan for £478,000 from one bank to another in 2007, when he was running the Royal Beacon Hotel in Exmouth.

But he denied committing fraud and a jury at Exeter Crown Court found him not guilty on Friday (December 14).

His wife, Ann, owned the freehold on the building which is home to the Golden Dragon restaurant, which was used as collateral to secure both the old and the new loan.

Nightingale, who had owned the Royal Beacon Hotel since 2003, told Exeter Crown Court on Tuesday he was pressured into moving the loan from the Bank of Scotland to Natwest by his bank manager, Robert Salisbury.

He said he had not deceived Natwest because Mr Salisbury was with him when he forged the signature and knew he had done it.

He said his wife learned of the switch of the loan to Natwest before the deal was completed and had agreed that the Golden Dragon should be used as security.

There was a power of attorney which enabled him to sign documents on her behalf.

He accused the bank of ruining his business by forcing him to take out loan swaps, also known as interest rate hedging products, leading to heavy losses and the repossession of the hotel in 2012.

Mr Nightingale owned and ran the Royal Beacon Hotel and rental properties in Exmouth, a Jeep dealership in Exeter, a car hire firm, and a car and truck dealerships in Yeovil.

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