Wealthy Scottish landowners seek almost £1m after embezzlement

Wealthy landowners are suing a leading property consultant
Wealthy landowners are suing a leading property consultant
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Wealthy landowners are suing a leading property consultant after its bookkeeper embezzled hundreds of thousands of pounds.

Earlier this month Matthew Varley, 44, admitted taking more than £221,000 over five years from sporting estates handled by CKD Galbraith.

The property firm repaid the stolen money – however, three of its clients are pursuing it for a total of almost £1 million, claiming breach of contract and poor record keeping.

Papers lodged at Edinburgh Sheriff Court on behalf of the clients read: “Since the fraud came to light the defender has restored some of the pursuer’s funds. The pursuer believes and avers that there is a shortfall between what the defender has and should have paid.”

Varley admitted taking money between 2010 and 2015. He will be sentenced next month.

Varley made 106 transactions taking money from clients’ accounts in Galbraith’s Inverness office between 3 October, 2011 and 11 June, 2015. He left the firm on 12 June, 2015, after which time discrepancies were found and clients were informed. Inverness Sheriff Court heard Galbraith uncovered account entries with no supporting paperwork and made-up invoices.

Sheriff David Sutherland was told by defence lawyer Matthew O’Neill that all the funds had since been repaid after his client sold a property in London.

The three clients pursuing Galbraith look after some of the most prestigious sporting estates in Scotland.

They include Dulce Maria de Barros Marchi Packard, who owns the Mayshiel Estate in East Lothian and is pursuing Galbraith for a potential £260,000 in total, as well as Millden in Angus, bought by investment banker Richard Hanson in 2004, which is also pursuing a potential £260,000.

The third client named in court papers is Leadhills Sporting which rents the sporting rights on parts of the Buccleuch Estate in Dumfriesshire and the Leadhills Estate in Lanarkshire. Leadhills is pursuing Galbraith for a potential £460,000.

A spokesman for Galbraith said: “It is the firm’s position that those clients affected were fully reimbursed by us for the sums embezzled when we uncovered the theft. In view of ongoing proceedings, it would be inappropriate to comment further.”

A spokeswoman for lawyers Balfour & Manson, acting on behalf of the three pursuers, said neither the firm or its clients would be commenting.