THE conmen brothers behind the Lapland New Forest fiasco are being chased for £150,000 “missing” from the accounts of the firm behind the failed attraction.
Victor and Henry Mears, who were last week convicted of misleading tens of thousands of unsuspecting customers at their “winter wonderland” theme park, raked in £1.2m in advance ticket sales before it collapsed in 2008.
But only around half of the people who handed over money, in some cases hundreds of pounds for family tickets, have so far received anything back, leading to others cheated out of cash to demand a full investigation of the brothers’ finances.
And it is has now been revealed the accountancy firm liquidating Lapland New Forest has claimed the brothers illegally transferred £150,000 out of the company before it went bust.
The theme park was the scene of angry bust-ups when horrified families turned up to the Matchams site, near Ringwood, to discover it was far from the dazzling Christmas wonderland that had been advertised.
Parents and children watched on in disgust as Santa had heated slanging matches with disgruntled visitors, and sulking elves smoked in open sight of youngsters.
Elsewhere, the “magical” experience promised in adverts turned out to comprise of a few fairy lights scattered amongst trees, a nativity scene painted on a billboard in a muddy field, huskies chained to stakes, a broken ice rink and a plastic polar bear.
Last week, after a two-month trial at Bristol Crown Court, 67-year-old Victor Mears, a convicted fraudster, and his 60-year-old former boxer brother Henry, were found guilty by a jury of eight trading offences.
The pair, both from Brighton, have been warned they could face jail and unlimited fines after being convicted of five counts of engaging in a commercial practice which is a misleading action, and three charges of engaging in a commercial practice which is a misleading omission.
Accountancy firm Grant Thornton, which has now taken control of Lapland New Forest’s assets as it tries to liquidate it and pay off some of its debts, said a statement to creditors on the company’s position is likely to be published within weeks.
It added it is bringing a legal claim the brothers illegally siphoned off cash before it went into liquidation.
The brothers are due to be sentenced on March 18.