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Trucker 'tried to sell Ritz hotel'

  • Story Highlights
  • An unemployed lorry driver offered to broker the sale of the famous London hotel
  • Tony Lee asked for $2 million down payment on the deal with Terry Collins
  • Court documents revealed that Collins was the victim of "an elaborate fraud."
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LONDON, England (CNN) -- An opportunity to buy London's exclusive Ritz hotel at less than market value sounds too good to be true.

And it proved just that, for a businessman apparently duped into handing over £1 million ($2 million) as a down payment on the famous property.

Terry Collins paid the money to Tony Lee, an unemployed lorry driver, after he was approached by Lee in July 2006.

Lee, an undischarged bankrupt, offered to broker a deal for Collins to buy the hotel from its reclusive owners, the Barclay Brothers, for £250 million -- £350 million below its then market value.

Collins, who owns property company LAH, signed an exclusive deal with Lee, who had absolutely no connection with Sir David and Sir Frederick Barclay, who also own the Telegraph group of newspapers.

To raise the £1 million deposit, Collins approached Dutch firm Apvodedo.

The details of the alleged fraud came to light Thursday in documents released from London's High Court, after Apvodedo began legal action to retrieve the money from Collins.

Court documents from Apvodedo's legal bid to sue Collins and released by the Chancery Division of the High Court, revealed that both Collins and the Dutch firm appeared to have been "the victims of an elaborate fraud."

Lee told Collins that details of the sale were contained in 27 boxes of documents, which were "purely fictitious" according to the High Court.

A High Court judge has ordered a trial over who should have to repay the £1 million. There may face a problem retrieving the funds, however. According to the court documents, Lee and his business partner Patrick Dolan "set about spending the money as soon as they received it." E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

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