Following our first report on the mystery of Taymouth Castle, some readers told us that the golfing community have noticed that the Taymouth Castle Golf Course seems, well, a bit odd. We’ve looked carefully at that, spoken to some new people and chased a few leads. Below, we explain where we’ve got to and link the golf course with other ongoing elements of the case.
We have a solid amount of information across the board now about a story which suggest possible grand-scale money laundering in Scotland. And we’re receiving new information each time we post here. From what we already know, the story points towards an number of specific conclusions and indeed a number of personalities both in Scotland and outside. Over the next two or three weeks, we’ll take each strand of thought as far as we can; then we’ll tie them all together and make our final conclusions. In the meantime, we’ll progress cautiously to ensure we take account of the new information we’re receiving each day.
So, here’s what we know about the golf course.
The Mains of Taymouth Golf Course is a 9 hole course operated by Taymouth Leisure Ltd trading as The Mains of Taymouth. It used to be known as The Kenmore Golf Club. Mains of Taymouth is an established, reputable and highly successful business owned by well-known local businesspeople. The course is used by holidaymakers using Mains of Taymouth properties, and local folk. This is not the Taymouth Castle Golf Course, which is directly over the River Tay where a footbridge links the two banks.
The Taymouth Castle Golf Course itself, an 18 hole course, is of most interest to us because people in the golfing community have said that the course management and extensive maintenance, and apparent lack of custom, make it hard to understand how it could be a viable business proposition. They say that the course looks beautiful in photographs and in person, and it is indeed is a site of very special beauty. The course maintenance looks impressive, yet the objective – it seems to some – seems to be to present the course as an enhancement to the area around the castle rather than make the golf course work as a business. Indeed, the course appears to be shut.
Companies House filings show that in 1993, Taymouth Castle Hotel Ltd, still owned by the McTaggart family, sold Kenmore Hotel to Kenmore Estates. Kenmore Hotel is adjacent to the golf course. Taymouth Castle Hotel remained a part shareholder in Kenmore estates until 1999. That year, a Tanya Flinn replaced Taymouth Castle Hotel Ltd as shareholder in Kenmore Estates. Tanya Flinn’s husband is Malcolm Flinn, presently a director of Kenmore luxury lodges (which we’ll come back to) and of Aurora Hotel Collection Ltd which owns the Kenmore Hotel. Here’s Malcolm Flinn described as the owner of Kenmore Hotel four years ago when £100,000 in cash was allegedly stolen by a staff member – busy night in the bar, it seems. Readers will see that the asset Flinn owns is referred to as; “The Kenmore Hotel and Taymouth Castle Golf Club”. And indeed, until recently, the golf course does appear to have been run by Kenmore Hotel as a commonly-owned asset. Today, the peculiar Kenmore Hotel website retains an image of golf as one of its three rotating headers, but has the same link which informs us that the golf course is closed.
In 2005, Hotels International bought Taymouth Castle from the McTaggarts for £12m. Hotels International was a director of Taymouth Group from 2004 to 2005 and the owners of Taymouth Group were two individuals knows as Gavin French and Clint Wellington. At this point, French and Wellington took out a huge loan from HSBC Bank using the castle and its estate as security. In August of 2006, title deeds suggest that Taymouth became the owners of the Castle, with Taymouth Castle Hydro Hotel Ltd owning what appears to now be Kenmore Luxury Lodges. In this year, Taymouth group secured a loan from Plazaway Investments Ltd, using Castle and estate assets as security. In 2008, Taymouth Castle Hotel Ltd was sold to Dalglen Ltd.
In 2009, Taymouth Castle Hotel Ltd accounts show tangible fixed assets valued at just over £2m. It was owed £500,000 by Taymouth Group Ltd and £60,000 by Taymouth Development Ltd. They were reported as being placed in administration that year. They were under common control and the ultimate controlling party was Dalglen Ltd, a Scottish company owned by the same Gavin French and Clint Wellington. Taymouth Group then began insolvency proceedings. In 2010, Dalglen sold Taymouth Castle Hotels Ltd to FT Property Holdings.
In September 2010, Taymouth Estate was registered in Guernsey; it went into liquidation in 2015. This company appears to be connected to Gavin French and Clint Wellington because it was a director of Taymouth Golf Management Ltd until 2015, and the golf company’s other directors until then included Gavin French.
As reported by us here, In 2010, Metor Asset Management bought the castle out of administration and in 2011, local planning officials confirmed that Meteor had begun work on the site. In 2012, Taymouth Estates Ltd, which still controlled the golf course, leased the asset to Taymouth Castle Golf Management Ltd. That year, Perth and Kinross Council issued a breach of planning notice to Taymouth Castle Estate Ltd, of Meteor Asset Management. That year, Meteor property fund told the Sunday Herald that Farnham Developments Ltd, converting the castle, had been forced into a company voluntary agreement to stave of liquidation. Farnham at this point belonged to, erm, Gavin French and Clint Wellington.
In 2014, registered title deeds laying out how the castle is to be converted showed the owners still as Taymouth Estate Ltd and Taymouth Castle Estates Ltd as proprietors of the estate and castle. The first B&B brochures go out advertising units in the castle for sale. In Janauary 2015, it was reported that Meteor Asset Management had relinquished al interests in the castle to ‘an investment trust’. However, the land register shows Taymouth Estate was still the owner of the castle and estate. In May 2015, Taymouth Estates went into liquidation. Mount Two bought the asset when Taymouth, a land registry spokesperson says; “were in liquidation at the time”. Mount Two still seems to own the golf course, and to let it to Mains of Taymouth via agents Barrasford and Bird.
When we visited the course very recently early afternoon on a marvellous early autumn day, we found the sight of and from one of quite astonishing beauty. Even by Scotland’s standards. A friendly worker nodded as he cut the grass on a sit-on lawnmower. The course is a simple one by Scottish standards. We stood on the divot-free medal tee and walked down the fairway. No-one shouted at us because there were no golfers of course.
Taymouth Castle’s empty but beautifully maintained golf course is indeed an oddity. And it seems to play an important part in identifying the close relationship between the ownership of Taymouth Castle and ownership of the Kenmore Hotel next door. Readers will soon discover that Kenmore is linked to a number of interesting properties and business across Scotland.
For now, we are quite certain that, during the reign of Muammar Gaddafi, senior Libyan officials stole state assets and contracts and salted them away abroad for a rainy day in a Libya. Well, rainy days don’t come in Summer in Libya, but they do in Autumn and on 20th October 2011 one came along all right. One of our friends, a Scot, was present at the very time and place. Gaddafi’s leading henchmen then made their way to the places they’d stashed the cash for years. A lot of the cash was stashed in London and Scotland. And the Scots who helped people who’d played their part in a murderous regime and who’d stolen from the poor of their country are known to us.
As we’ve said already, we’ll proceed carefully. But proceed we will. We’ve lodged what we have now with solicitors in the event that any of us should slip on our doorstep and bash our bottoms, or such like. And at times our posts may seem circuitous. But in the coming weeks we will make it clear where money was stolen in Libya, how it was moved to Scotland, which Scots (and folk of other nations) helped and where everyone is today. We haven’t really got to them yet, and there are many innocents involved in this story. But we’ll get to them very soon.
We conclude this piece with a request for new information. You know the score. It’s in confidence. Contact us on Twitter or here. Or ring us on this number which looks like a London one but is anything but (that’s a kind of irony…).