These days, even a celebrity divorce must have its housing market angle. Was I the only one that was totally shocked by the revelation that Heather Mills tried to roll over her former husband for £480,000? Should we be surprised that the mechanism for this deceit should be related to non-existent mortgage and a property? No, that is how things are these days.
Mills asked her husband to pay off the "mortgage" on one of her properties. However, the problem was that there was no outstanding loan on the property. Here is how the judge described the transaction:
"On 2 November 2005 the wife e-mailed Mr Paul Winn, MPL’s finance director, in respect of the property at Thames Reach that “the amount outstanding on the mortgage is £480,000” and “please pay it in the following account and I will deal with the closure of it”. The account was a NatWest bank account in the name of the wife.
On 5 November the wife e-mailed Mr Winn that “there are 4 loans with different companies on the property totalling £480,000 …”. Mr Winn pressed for full details on each loan. In February 2006 the wife again e-mailed Mr Winn about the loans and on 28 February instructed him to pay £450,000 into her account “so that I can settle this situation”. On 1 March Mr Winn told the wife in an e-mail that he would not pay any sum “without proof that the loans exist or some protection secured on the property at Thames Reach”.
“In my judgment it is unnecessary to go so far as to characterise what the wife attempted as fraudulent. However, it is not an episode that does her any credit whatsoever. Either she knew or must have known that there were no loans on Thames Reach, yet she tried to suggest that there were and thereby obtain monies by underhand means.”
“Her attempts when cross-examined to suggest that she may have got in a muddle and confused this property with others, to my mind, had a hollow ring. In the light of the husband’s generosity towards her, as I have set out, I find the wife’s behaviour distinctly distasteful.”
Indeed, it is very distasteful. However, it is very much the mark of the times we live in. The UK has an army of small time investors who have falsely obtained mortgages, often by declaring themselves to be owner-occupiers when in reality they were investors. There are companies colluding with appraisers to overvalue properties in order to mislead lenders into thinking that deposits are being paid.
It shouldn't surprise anyone that even our celebrities are at it as well.