Unknown Irish investor Tom Ryan was said to have to acquired a tired-looking 1980s office block in Canary Wharf for £100m last November, announcing a bold redevelopment vision for sky-high, luxury living in what he boasted would be Europe's tallest residential tower.
A report on the front page of the Financial Times cited "sources" who said the project was to be the first of a series of property investments by Ryan.
But it was not to be. Claims of an agreed sale proved to be more of a tall story than tall storeys. Weeks later, behind the scenes, Ryan was still busily courting finance from wealthy individuals with the help of bankers at Credit Suisse.
Eventually, his dream was shattered; the site, occupied by Barclays bank, was sold instead to a Chinese state-owned property investment fund. Ryan left red faced – and now some of his putative backers are threatening Credit Suisse with legal action.
Credit Suisse confirmed on Monday that a senior banker, believed to be private wealth specialist Hans Olaf Eldring, had left the business. The bank said: "We acted swiftly when an allegation of wrongdoing was brought to our attention. We are unable to comment further due to ongoing investigations."
Among those enraged by their brush with Ryan's team include Mayfair property developers Nick and Christian Candy, best known for their One Hyde Park project. "There is no doubt in my mind," Nick Candy told the Guardian. "At the end of the day, people have done something [misleading] and it needs to come out."
The Candys are understood to have grown wary when approached by Ryan's team, having read an investigation into his mixed record of business achievements in the Guardian. A relative unknown in London property circles, Ryan's modest past investments variously included ventures with a convicted fraudster, the owner of a lap-dancing club and an ex-adviser to former taoiseach Bertie Ahern, our investigation revealed.
He had been the subject of three tax judgments secured by the Irish Revenue since 2011 and orders to pay other creditors. Ryan had also set up a business to market a Bailey's-style liqueur called Ryan's Irish Cream, though that project too failed to get off the ground.
The Candys' own inquiries into Ryan's background raised yet more questions, and, within 24 hours, Christian Candy's Omni Capital had declined to invest. Later, the brothers complained to Credit Suisse.
Rumours of Eldring's departure from the bank emerged last week on business news blog Betaville, but were not confirmed by Credit Suisse until now. Eldring could not be reached for comment.
Contacted by the Guardian with a series of questions, Ryan, through a spokesman, said: "Our lawyers are aware of the blog from which these questions arise and it is our view that it is litigious [sic] and fundamentally and factually incorrect.
"It appears to be, in part, sponsored by way of confidential material leaked by certain individuals from, or acting on behalf, of certain companies. This immediately raises suspicions about the motivation of those leaking the material. It is our view that the media are being used mischievously."
Ryan declined to say whether he or Credit Suisse had misrepresented his assets in representations to prospective investors or why the deal had fallen through. Asked about a deposit on the Canary Wharf site, a spokesman for Ryan said: "We can confirm that the deposit monies were supplied by Mr Ryan's investment company."
A schedule of Ryan's purported investments, appearing to be on Credit Suisse headed paper, was sent to the Candys at the end of December. It showed investments in loan notes issued by Goldman Sachs, the brewer AB Inbev and Daimler as well as in funds run by Brevan Howard, Pimco and Bluecrest Capital.
The schedule was sent by Andertons, a small firm of accountants in Catford, south-east London, who had briefly been hired by Ryan. The accountants have since been contacted by Credit Suisse and say they were told the documents were "not what they were supposed to be". At the bank's invitation, Andertons said it had returned the papers to Ryan, for whom it no longer acts.
In March, Commercial Estates Group, the development manager behind the Canary Wharf site which had remained tight lipped on Ryan's claims to have taken control, announced contracts had been exchanged, valuing the project at £600m, with Greenland Group, a property investment group owned by the Chinese state.
Greenland too plans to develop the tower as a "242m landmark luxury residential tower... designed to appeal to both UK purchasers in London and worldwide." One Canada Square, the largest skyscraper in Canary Wharf, is 244m high.
guardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010