Gold bullion, fake IDs, and wigs among items reportedly seized by police

Mark Cattell Arena OB

Arena TV bosses Robert Hopkinson and Richard Yeowart are to go to trial in France tomorrow, 7 June, for money laundering and using false documents. 

Hopkinson was found in the country last year, while Yeowart is still on the run and will be tried in absentia at the court in Montlucon in the Allier region. The AFP has reported that gold bullion, cash, two cars and two homes worth a total of €1.4 million (£1.2m) were seized by police, as well as fake identity cards, counterfeit driving licences, and wigs. 

The pair have been charged with aggravated money laundering, using false documents, criminal conspiracy, using the name of someone else, and owning false number plates. They face a maximum sentence of ten years in prison.

On the UK side, a Serious Fraud Office spokesperson told Broadcast Tech: “Our investigation into suspected fraud by individuals associated with Arena TV remains ongoing.”

Hopkinson and Yeowart were made bankrupt last year, when the High Court awarded a default judgement to administrator Kroll - this was granted in the sum of £100 million, plus £500,000 in costs.

In the UK, the Serious Fraud Office made two arrests and searched three sites related to the case last year. In addition, a lawsuit has been brought by Arena TV’s administrator, Kroll, against Sentinel Broadcast director Paul Froom, who allegedly appointed criminal defence lawyers at the beginning of the year, and Nicholas Cousins, who held a senior finance role with Arena TV and had a claim filed against him by Kroll earlier this month, accusing them of providing “dishonest assistance” to Hopkinson and Yeowart.

Froom is being pursued over £1.1 million of invoices paid to Sentinel, which are said to have been misapplied or missapropriated by Arena TV’s directors. Administrator Kroll was reportedly investigating the possibility that Sentinel had created false invoices in co-operation with Arena TV earlier this year, and Sentinel went into administration itself in July 2022. Meanwhile, Kroll claims Cousins received £210,000 in “corrupt gifts” for his role in the fraud.

Arena TV suddenly collapsed in November 2021, with administrators Kroll since revealing that the company owed £282 million to 55 lenders. £182 million of that was unsecured, meaning 46 lenders “do not have recourse to any assets”. A full explanation of the allegations can be found here.

The administrator’s report also revealed that Arena TV directors made “the decision to cease trading shortly after” an agent attempted to verify a serial number with an equipment manufacturer. They were told it didn’t exist and then sent a query to the lender about the concern. There have also been accusations that employees were made to work while on furlough while at the company