A figurehead of Liverpool’s regeneration boom today denied allegations he is a money launderer for notorious criminals.
Peter McInnes was the public face of a sprawling portfolio of projects across the city centre, leading the charge for spectacular developments including the £200m New Chinatown plans.
But his links to two figures who became key players in Liverpool’s gangland have seen him subjected to accusations of laundering drugs money.
Mr McInnes was subjected to the allegations during a 2016 hearing targeting the ill-gotten gains of infamous drug and gun gang brothers Stephen and Peter Clarke.
Detective Constable Duncan Watson used the case to raise questions over the 48-year-old’s business links to Stephen Clarke - one of two high profile underworld characters he had connections with.
After a 14-month wait to defend himself in public Mr McInnes, who said he has never been arrested, questioned or charged over the claims, has now dismissed them as “misleading and untrue”.
PETER MCINNES: THE PUBLIC VOICE OF LIVERPOOL SCHEMES VALUED AT MORE THAN £320M
Mr McInnes became one of the biggest players in Liverpool’s vibrant regeneration scene through prominent roles at development firms PHD1 and North Point Global.
He spoke out on behalf of both companies as they embarked on plans to transform Liverpool city centre, with his quotes appearing on press releases marking key stages of projects with a projected value of more than £320m.
They included the New Chinatown deal for proposals for 800 homes, 200,000 sq ft of shops and the creation of as many as 1,000 jobs in a massive scheme set to lie in the shadow of the Anglican Cathedral.
That bid was secured in 2015 by the company it was said he chaired, North Point Global, described as the development-arm of “local construction firm PHD1” - of which he was also described as chair.
At the other end of the city centre, work is also underway on the 18 storey North Point Global development off Pall Mall - North Point - touted as a new gateway to the city centre from the north.
Set to tower over the business district, the state-of-the-art £90m complex is designed to offer everything from apartments to rooftop gardens.
In 2015 Mr McInnes also publicly supported a £20m regeneration of the former Kensington Market site, and plans to overhaul the St Gabriel’s site in Woolton and turn it into a residential complex.
At the time both were linked to North Point Global, though this week the company told the ECHO it has no financial interest in either the Kensington or Woolton schemes.
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Mr McInnes’ web of business interests also saw him develop connections with players in Liverpool’s underworld, however.
Companies House records reveal he was once a director of the now dissolved firm Peckers Hill Development Ltd.
He held that role alongside wife Sheila Ann McInnes and Anthony Quigley, who all used a plush Childwall Park Avenue home as their address for company correspondence.
That home, which Mr McInnes told the ECHO was owned and rented out by his wife, was raided by Merseyside Police on June 18, 2015, with specialist police arresting Quigley as part of a cross-country crackdown on drugs.
Quigley, 38, is awaiting sentencing after pleading guilty to conspiring to supply heroin.
He is part of the same gang that included Lee Halpin, Andrew Worrall and Carl Smyth - known as the Lidderdale Three - who were part of an outfit jailed for more than 90 years in total for supplying drugs to gangs in Scotland, Wales, Devon and Cornwall.
The gang’s nerve centre was a safehouse on Lidderdale Road in Wavertree, where a hydraulic press in a room hidden behind a washing machine was used to cut super strength heroin before it was distributed.
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The ECHO and other media have been banned from reporting on Quigley, Peckers Hill and Mr McInnes for more than a year due to the attempted prosecution of another man arrested in the same operation that saw the Lidderdale Three and Quigley targeted by police.
That man was 41-year-old Lee Battle, another Liverpool city centre property developer.
Last week the case was dropped against Mr Battle, with the prosecution offering no evidence, bringing an end to the reporting restrictions.
They were enforced as Mr McInnes was considered a potential witness who would verify that Mr Battle’s alleged involvement with Quigley was not linked to the drugs conspiracy.
Liverpool Crown Court heard the defence case was that Quigley acted in negotiations as Mr McInnes stepped in to help a former business partner of Mr Battle, cover money he owed Mr Battle.
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Mr McInnes’ relationship with Quigley is not the only feature that has led police to focus on the developer’s connections.
It was during a separate case to Mr Battle’s that the ECHO was first stopped from reporting on his links to criminals.
Mr McInnes’ name was brought up during a Preston Crown Court hearing that saw the Crown Prosecution Service attempt to strip the notorious Clarke brothers of their criminal fortune.
Peter Clarke, an army corporal turned drugs baron, had been jailed with his security boss brother Stephen over a plot to orchestrate shipments of cocaine and cannabis from Merseyside to Northern Ireland.
The gangsters, whose network had access to a cache of guns, samurai swords and machetes, were jailed for a combined 26 and-a-half-years in November 2013.
Speaking at a Proceeds of Crime Act hearing, Detective Constable Duncan Watson said he suspected Mr McInnes of being a “launderer of drugs’ money” as he did not know where the developer’s money comes from.
The court had previously heard claims Mr McInnes was a joint 50% shareholder with Stephen Clarke in scaffolding company Pro Scaff Access, and had made monthly payments of £4,000 to a joint account held by Clarke and his wife Rachel Clarke, which amounted to £178,000 between 2009 and 2012.
Mr McInnes has accepted he had business dealings with both Stephen Clarke and Quigley, but said in each case the relationship took place before either was arrested for drugs offences.
The case also heard DC Watson claim Mr McInnes had never declared any income in the UK and suggest: “He fronts companies, runs them until accounts are due and then scraps them and then moves on.”
Companies House records link Peter McInnes to 12 companies across six different, unlinked, profiles. Six of those companies are dissolved and two have been liquidated.
PHD1 has since entered administration while North Point Global has recently moved to address investors’ concerns that work had stopped on its Liverpool sites.
Since the lifting of reporting restrictions North Point Global, which Mr McInnes is no longer working with, has insisted he was not employed by the company - stating he was no more than a non-executive chair.
PETER MCINNES: I AM THE VICTIM OF UNTRUE ALLEGATIONS
The lifting of reporting restrictions on both the Lee Battle and Clarke cases has now presented Mr McInnes with the opportunity to publicly speak out against the accusations, which he told the ECHO had “significantly impacted” his reputation.
He said he had a legitimate income which he had declared in the UK, and that he had never been questioned by DC Watson or any law enforcement agency over allegations of financial criminality.
Mr McInnes added he was not in court “to refute these scandalous and unmerited slurs which are at best fake news and at worst an attempt to sully his reputation”.
A statement released to the ECHO on his behalf said: “Peter McInnes is gravely concerned that the Liverpool Echo has once again decided to print untrue and misleading allegations about him in relation to the proceedings at Preston Crown Court in January 2016 in the matter of R-v-Clarke.”
It went on to add that:
- Mr McInnes had never been involved in the laundering of drugs money and no finding of money laundering has ever been made against him.
- He has never been arrested, questioned or interviewed regarding the affairs of Anthony Quigley.
- Peter McInnes has never been chairman of PHD1 Construction Limited.
- The companies referred to in court evidence by DC Watson had long passed into third party ownership prior to their cessation of trading.
- Peter McInnes has never been involved as a director in the appointment of insolvency practitioners to any company.
- He has never at any time given information to Liverpool council that could in any way be considered to be misleading or untrue.
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North Point Global, which said it too had been damaged by the allegations made by DC Watson, also raised questions over the financial investigator’s actions - and those of the Liverpool ECHO - in publishing an article on court proceedings that had to be removed due to the retrospective imposition of reporting restrictions.
A spokesman for the company said its directors were “dismayed” by the serious allegations made by DC Watson and accused him of misleading the court” as to the reputation and financial standing of North Point Global Group”.
The spokesman added: “Upon the disposal of all of the related criminal proceedings North Point Global Group will be taking the matter up with the Independent Police Complaints Commission, Cumbria Police and DC Watson.”