10 Aug, 2010 @ 10:33
2 mins read

Mirroring the views of many

The Mirror’s tribute to timeshare conman Garry Leigh

There’s a heartfelt tribute on the website of our old chum Costa conman Garry Leigh – who died in a cycling accident last week – which makes a change from using it to slag us off.

“He was an energetic man, bounding with ideas and enthusiasm, whose cheeky grin and Yorkshire tones infected everyone he came into contact with,” gives you a flavour of what you’ll find at garrypeterleigh.com

But we don’t think it quite does justice to the man, so are penning our own…

Leigh was a shark who made tens of millions of pounds by finding a simple way to sell the unsellable.

He moved into the timeshare industry by the time it had become a dirty word.

Before that, his early career was unpromising. His Sheffield pub chain Matchoption Limited went bust in 1993 owing £300,000 and his next company, 3T Publications Ltd, was shut down by the DTI for running a pyramid scam called Midas.

After that Leigh washed up on Spain’s Costa del Crime where one of his early unfortunate victims was Marilyn, a holidaymaker whose surname we’ve agreed not to use as she wants to put the awful experience behind her.

She was persuaded to sit through a sales presentation in the Malaga office of an outfit called Claymore Consultants.

Marilyn eventually agreed to buy a £6,100 timeshare on the promise that she’d get back 100% of the purchase price after five years through a “cashback” scheme.

She got cold feet the next day but was talked round by Claymore’s office manager – Garry Leigh. When she claimed her money, her application was returned by post. The cashback administrator called Masterson, based in Luxemburg, had disappeared.

Marilyn was the first of many victims caught in the cashback trap.
Garry’s next idea was to be his biggest. He set up Incentive Leisure Group in 2003 to sell membership of his own holiday club, the Designer Way Vacation Club.

He was taking unwanted timeshare weeks in part-exchange for membership -but still charging up to £10,000, sometimes more, to join.

The real carrot was some or all of their money back from Cashback Promotions, a trading name for Cashback Sales and Administration… which went bust amid fraud allegations last year. We’ve never heard from anyone who got a penny.

In theory members also got cheap holidays but most say they signed up for the cashback or to offload expensive timeshares.

Not for the holidays, which would sometimes be no cheaper than deals available elsewhere.

We’ve seen leaked court documents showing that Leigh borrowed €1,975,000 from Cashback between 2003 and 2005, but it’s alleged he never paid it back.

Then last June, Incentive Leisure Group UK pleaded guilty at Reading Magistrates Court to 11 counts of fraud.

The district judge, fining ILG £29,000, said he found the cashback lies the most worrying. And in December, the Office of Fair Trading and trading standards officers raided four ILG offices. Earlier this year ILG UK applied to Companies House to wind it up. Sadly Leigh didn’t live to discover the outcome of that OFT investigation.

We hope to bring it to you in due course.

He also left many worried customers who, from 2012, will discover if a third cashback firm – Reclaim – will deliver payouts ILG promised.

ILG won’t comment but we’re generous, so we’ll leave the final verdict to Peter Toner, Leigh’s PR man who, in his own words, was brought in to “clean the company up”.

He told us three years ago: “I would say half if not 80% of Garry’s business is bona fide. “He is one of the richest in the business, a good guy but he’s got to cut angles occasionally.”

Jon Clarke (Publisher & Editor)

Jon Clarke is a Londoner who worked at the Daily Mail and Mail on Sunday as an investigative journalist before moving permanently to Spain in 2003 where he helped set up the Olive Press. He is the author of three books; Costa Killer, Dining Secrets of Andalucia and My Search for Madeleine.

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