A US property firm has finalised a deal to buy Taymouth Castle, after a lawyer at the centre of the sale was jailed over millions of pounds of misappropriated funds.
American developer Discovery Land Company (DLC) has been holding behind-the-scenes talks to take over the historic Highland Perthshire pile, it has emerged.
The firm has a reputation for high quality residential communities and clubs across North America, and its plans for Taymouth represents its first foray in the UK.
The neo-Gothic castle, near Kenmore, was famously visited by Queen Victoria and Prince Albert in 1842.
Recent attempts to redevelop the building into a “world class” hotel have been hit by money problems. Last year, a Libyan statesman who served under dictator Muammer Gaddafi, was accused of stealing government cash to plough into the project.
In the latest twist of the increasingly winding saga, an attempt by Arizona-based DLC to buy the castle has led to a bitter legal dispute.
Lawyer Stephen Jones’ firm Jirehouse was instructed by DLC to oversee the purchase of Taymouth.
More than £11.5 million ($14.5m) was wired into an account controlled by Jirehouse in April last year, then a further £7.6m was sent in December.
However, unbeknownst to DLC, the money was loaned to two other of Jirehouse’s clients.
Jones was jailed for 14 months after a three-day hearing at the High Court in London after he failed to pay back more than £14m, despite a previous promise to do so.
He also refused to name the clients to whom he had given the money.
The court heard when the purchase was due to take place, the funds were not in the company’s account.
Judge Mr Justice Zacaroli said Jones had made “an elaborate series of excuses” for their whereabouts.
The court was told that DLC was able to finalise the purchase of the castle, only after the company wired through further funds to pay for it.
Although Jones refused to identify the two other clients, he said one was “developing a golf resort”.
In his judgement, Mr Zacaroli said: “It had been anticipated that the borrowers would sell their respective assets between June and July 2018. A sale of either asset would provide sufficient funds to repay the surplus funds.”
Jirehouse was shut down by the Solicitors Regulation Authority earlier this year.
Jones, who had previously worked for creditors of Dundee property developer Scot Young, was sentenced to 14 months for breach of payment undertakings and failing to disclose the identities of the two borrowers. He could be released earlier if he complies with the court.
DLC did not respond to requests for comment.