Tony Hetherington is Financial Mail on Sunday’s ace investigator, fighting readers corners, revealing the truth that lies behind closed doors and winning victories for those who have been left out-of-pocket. Find out how to contact him below.
M.T. writes: In 2015, I invested £10,000 as a loan to help fund the making of a film, The Comedian’s Guide To Survival.
Turkey: The film with James Buckley bombed
The contract guaranteed my money back after a year, and I was supposed to receive a further £2,500 plus a percentage of sale proceeds. The film bombed, and I have been trying ever since to get my money back.
The makers gradually paid me £3,000 and agreed to make monthly instalments which have not been forthcoming. The last payment I received was in 2020.
Tony Hetherington replies: This is no laughing matter, which of course was part of the problem with the film itself.
Despite starring James Buckley of TV sitcom The Inbetweeners, movie industry reports say that when it opened in 2016 it raked in all of about £75 – and no, that is not a misprint. You told me that apart from wanting to help the British film industry, you believed you were not taking a serious risk with your savings.
You were not buying shares in the film company, The Comedian’s Guide To Survival Limited, which would have exposed you to the risk of a complete loss of your money, just as much as it would have given you a share of any profits.
Instead, you made a loan, and the loan itself was backed up by a guarantee issued by another film company, Green Screen Productions Limited.
The problem is that the security of your loan was only as good as the film itself. And the guarantee was only as good as the company that issued it. And both companies were headed by the same man, the film’s producer Alan Latham.
The company bearing the film’s name is not looking healthy. Its last accounts only go up to 2019. Accounts due last September have not arrived at Companies House, which is an offence.
Officials started proceedings to dissolve the company, but action has been suspended. Typically, this means that creditors have objected – or an investigation has begun.
As for the guarantee company, it was shut down by the High Court five years ago for failing to pay taxes, so the guarantee is worthless.
The Comedian’s Guide To Survival Limited is based at Alan Latham’s film studios in Selby in North Yorkshire. He told me that ‘sadly it failed’, and he added that yet another company that was selling the film itself went into liquidation.
He explained: ‘The road to hell was paved with good intentions. We did not set out to make a film that did not work.’
Recovering your money might require divine intervention. Latham told me: ‘If by some miracle we can sell the picture, he will get repaid.’
As for his company’s missing accounts, the movie maker said: ‘We won’t let it get struck off. This is just my inefficiency.’
Putting money into any film is a risk, just because of the nature of the industry. But you should have been a bit safer by making a loan and getting a guarantee.
You told me a few days ago that you still hope you may recover something, but you are not holding your breath.
Sadly, that just about sums it up. It all reminds me of another film, made in 1991 with Danny DeVito as corporate raider ‘Larry the Liquidator’.
Explaining his commercial strategy, he proclaims that in business there is only one thing better than money, and that’s Other People’s Money. And that’s a better, and funnier film too.
Why is gym group billing me?
R.B. writes: My Nationwide statement showed a direct debit for about £160 to the gym firm David Lloyd Clubs.
I am not, and never have been, a member. I rang Nationwide, who were extremely sympathetic, cancelled the direct debit and refunded the money.
‘Identity theft’: R.B. has never been a David Lloyd member
Then I tried to contact David Lloyd Clubs. Easier said than done. There seems to be no central number, and my nearest club, in Lichfield, could not help.
Tony Hetherington replies: You thought you had sorted this out, but after Nationwide refunded your money, you received a letter from David Lloyd Clubs.
It was sent to an address which does not exist, but which is close enough to your home for the postman to pop it through your door.
The letter complained that Mr Trevor McDonald (not your name) owed fees to the David Lloyd gym in Dartford, which is 175 miles away from you.
You rang and were told you would be called back, but never were, and next you received a threatening letter from the gym company’s lawyers, claiming you owed £1,869.
I asked David Lloyd Clubs to look into this, and staff told me that, ‘It does appear there has been some sort of identity theft’ – as if this was not exactly what you had been telling them all along.
They wanted you to report it to the police, so I explained that this would be pointless as you had lost no money.
The real victim was the company itself. I pressed it to contact the police and eventually I was told: ‘Yes, we will be looking to do this.’ I hope they meant it.
We’re watching you
A rip-off company that marketed an expensive and unnecessary domestic appliance repair scheme has been shut down by the High Court and ordered into liquidation.
Premier Protect Holdings Limited, which also called itself Premier Protect 365, used high pressure phone calls to sell costly service plans for white goods and TVs. Its salesforce even persuaded elderly or vulnerable customers into giving their card details to renew plans they had never even taken out.
The Mail on Sunday warned against the company in 2020, after a 95-year-old woman was charged £195 for repair cover on her washing machine. I found then that although it used a London address, the company was really based in Brighton. Neither the company nor its director Abdelhak Akayour cooperated with the recent investigation by the Insolvency Service. Chief Investigator Lynda Copson said: ‘We have acted to ensure this appalling company has been shut down.’
I reported in 2020 that Akayour had previously run Xmar keting Limited and Protect Your Bubble Limited. Both were compulsorily struck off by Companies House. He also ran Total Motor Aid Limited, which was shut down by the High Court for non-payment of taxes.
Akayour’s current company is Home Protect 365 Limited. It failed to file accounts legally due over a year ago and proceedings have begun to dissolve it.
Akayour uses several addresses but my enquiries show he lives in Worthing in West Sussex, where I found three County Court Judgments against him, as well as judgments against two of his businesses. Surely it is time for him to be banned as a company director.
If you believe you are the victim of financial wrongdoing, write to Tony Hetherington at Financial Mail, 2 Derry Street, London W8 5TS or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Because of the high volume of enquiries, personal replies cannot be given. Please send only copies of original documents, which we regret cannot be returned.