Police investigate failure of regional contractor as meeting reveals unsecured creditors owed £4.2m.
The Serious Fraud Office has turned its attention to the collapse of regional contractor Bickerton Construction as part of its investigation into failed M&E group Mea Corporation.

The move comes as a creditors meeting on 17 January revealed further details of the events leading up to the collapse of Bickerton.

A Serious Fraud Office spokesperson said: "The SFO is investigating Mea Projects [an arm of Mea Corporation]. Bickerton is an area that is being investigated in relation to the case." John Aviss, owner of Mea and Bickerton, was unavailable for comment.

Bickerton was put into liquidation after a heated creditors meeting at the Holiday Inn on Welbeck Street, central London. The meeting revealed that the 70-year-old St Alban's-based contractor owed unsecured creditors about £4.5m, including debts to firms such as John Cooper Construction, Betgate Structures and Dudley Bower Services.

It also emerged from the meeting that almost £1m in shares of property firm Gryphon Estates, a wholly owned subsidiary of Bickerton, were transferred to Driver Contracting, a shell company that was set up for the purpose.

Bickerton directors Jonathan Bradley-Hoare and Stephen Frost are directors of Driver Contracting.

The creditors' report says the transfer, which took place a month before Bickerton ceased trading, had the effect of taking £921,767 off its balance sheet.

The report comments that this transaction will need careful investigation by the liquidator.

The transferral of Gryphon shares, which took place a month before Bickerton ceased trading, took £921,767 off its balance sheet

Creditors’ report

Aviss acquired Bickerton, along with sister contractor Driver Construction (a separate firm from Driver Contracting) in June last year from Artisan Group. The report says Artisan took £1.4m in management charges out of Bickerton before the sale.

In was also revealed last week that Aviss had sold Driver Construction to Peter Neagle, a former director of Bickerton. Neagle was unavailable for comment.

Bickerton's liquidator, chartered accountancy firm Gerald Edelman, is also investigating Bickerton's collapse.

Gerald Edelman refused to comment on its inquiries.

In the creditors' report, which was distributed at the meeting, Bickerton director Bradley-Hoare blamed "existing directors" for failing to spot that Bickerton stood to lose on some of its contracts.

The report said: "It is in the opinion of Bradley-Hoare that existing directors did not pay careful enough attention to the company's profitability when dealing with the negotiations in respect of new contracts."

Aviss acquired Bickerton Construction, Driver Construction and Gryphon Estates as part of a deal with Stephen Dean, the owner of Artisan, to list Mea on the alternative investment market.