In May 2016 we were instructed to locate the whereabouts of an individual who owed over half a million pounds to a solicitors client. The trace was successful, an address located, and instructions were received to serve a Statutory Demand.
First attendance to the service address gave us every process servers nightmare – a substantial property set behind wooden gates with no visibility to the property, and intercom only access. Nevertheless, the intercom was answered by a female, who advised the debtor was not in. With residency confirmed, an appointment letter was sent, and when the debtor failed to attend the appointment, the Demand was letterboxed.
This is where the fun began!
A few days after service, we received a telephone call from a female on a witheld number. She advised she had been away and just got home to find two pieces of mail (no doubt referring to our appointment, and the Demand). She was very keen to point out that she had not opened one of the envelopes. She said the debtor did not live at the address, but declined to confirm who she was or her association to the debtor, or the address. We pointed out someone had already confirmed he did, and she advised it was probably the housekeeper and the housekeeper did not speak English very well and could not be relied upon. The female stated she was destroying the envelopes.
This information was relayed to our client, with our belief this was all a fabrication. The client agreed, and commented the debtor had once before denied receipt of a Demand, so this was likely to just be tactics! However, as it seemed the debtor did know how to ‘play the system’ we decided to make some further enquiries, just to be sure.
Through our additional enquiries, amongst other things, we found letters sent to the council from the debtor, referring to a noise nuisance in the property next door to his, and confirming his residency thereat. An immediate neighbour knew the debtor well, and commented he had gone abroad just that day, as she had spoken to his wife earlier. We also popped into the village pub, and others there also knew him well, and stated if we were quick we might catch him in because he was going on holiday that day……… it became immediately apparent this was an evasive debtor, who evidently did live at the service address and was no-doubt in receipt of the Demand.
A wealth of additional evidence was sourced by ASH, and all of our evidence was produced in a Witness Statement of Service and presented to the Court. The Judge agreed service had been effected, and the Petition was issued.
Ding Ding, Round 2
Armed with photograph of the debtor, found from his facebook profile, we commenced efforts to serve the Bankruptcy Petition. Not surprisingly, we hit a bit of a brick wall – lots of different sources again able to confirm residency, but with a large wooden gate preventing us even having a good view of the property, let alone being able to make a direct approach to the door, it was not proving very fruitful. We even attended the village pub on various evenings to try and spot him in the crowd, but without success. An appointment letter sent to the address was not responded to, and as the final service date approached, we agreed with our client to have the hearing relisted and we would commence further attempts at this point.
Knowing the Petition had not been served, our client sent a junior solicitor to court on the hearing date, simply to get the matter adjourned. But who should show up for the hearing……..? No, not the debtor, but he did send his solicitor! His solicitor was keen to make sure the court knew the debtor had not been served, and therefore the hearing could not go ahead, but he failed to consider one important fact…………
The solicitors attendance at the hearing showed the debtor knew full well that a Petition had been issued – how else could he have instructed his solicitor to attend? The Judge reviewed all of the evidence we had been able to gain to date, agreed that the debtor was indeed being evasive, and made an unprecedented decision to make an immediate Order, there and then, that service of the Petition be effected upon the debtors solicitor, who as we know, was in Court. The Petition was handed to him there and then, deeming the debtor to have been served. The hearing was relisted, for a future date, and the debtor now has no choice but to attend, else he will be made bankrupt in his absence anyway.
This was a very substantial debt, which the debtor believed he could avoid through lies and evasiveness. Through the vast amount of knowledge we were unable to uncover in hours of research, a truly remarkable judgment was made, alleviating the client the financial responsibility of further service attempts, and meaning the hearing can now proceed without further delay. It also gave a clear message to the debtor that the games were over!
If you have an evasive debtor that you are struggling to progress, get in touch on 01543 888218