SFO opens criminal investigation into Arena Television collapse

The Serious Fraud Office has opened a criminal investigation into Arena Television, a collapsed broadcaster which worked on the Euro 2020 football tournament and Glastonbury.

The White Collar Crime Agency said it searched three sites in southern England on Wednesday morning with support from the National Crime Agency and arrested two people.

The SFO did not name the suspects who are currently being questioned. It is understood they are not Arena bosses Richard Yeowart and Robert Hopkinson, who disappeared shortly after the company collapsed in November and are believed to have left the UK.

Arena have supplied outside broadcast trucks to clients including the BBC, ITV and Sky. It folded in November after a company-provided serial number for a piece of equipment was interrogated and found to be false.

He previously worked on high profile sporting events such as the Six Nations Rugby Championship and the FA Cup.

The extent of the alleged fraud was only revealed earlier this year in a report by the directors of Kroll, who took control of Arena and are seeking to recover funds for creditors.

They said Arena tricked the banks into loaning him over £280million for assets that did not exist.

A review of equipment held by the company revealed that it “does not own the vast majority of the assets allegedly acquired”.

Administrators said the only funds they had located were £2,761 in petty cash at Arena’s offices and no “significant” sums were to be recovered from its bank accounts.

The OFS said: “These searches and arrests are part of a wider investigative activity carried out by the OFS in relation to this case.

“As this is an ongoing investigation, no further comment or information can be provided at this time.”

Fifty-five lenders owed Arena money when it went bankrupt, including NatWest, Virgin Money UK, Close Brothers and Shawbrook.

Kroll’s directors have previously said they are investigating why the company was shut down so abruptly, the disappearance of its directors, the discovery of vast debts that were not disclosed in the accounts and the alleged “disinformation “provided to lenders and other parties.

Arena was founded in 1988 by Mr. Yeowart to provide outside broadcast trucks and helicopters to cover sporting events.

However, on November 10, the company’s employees, some of whom were on their way to broadcasting jobs, were abruptly informed that it had ceased operations and that they had to return the equipment to the Redhill headquarters, in Surrey.

Kroll declined to comment on the SFO investigation.

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