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Lord Ashcroft’s Caribbean bank asked to hand over documents

Court gives insolvency practitioner tracing assets of collapsed company power to demand information from Tory peer’s bank

The Caribbean bank of Tory peer Lord Ashcroft faces demands to hand over documents relating to the collapse of a company whose subsidiary is accused of benefiting from a culture of corruption.

An insolvency practitioner appointed by the British Virgin Islands courts to trace the assets of Oxford Ventures Limited has been granted powers to request information from the British Caribbean Bank (BCB), an Ashcroft business based in the Turks and Caicos Islands (TCI).

Oxford Ventures, which collapsed in 2010, is the ultimate parent company of Johnston International, a construction and engineering firm that went bust in the same year with debts of m and is now under scrutiny in the TCI and the UK. Oxford’s main creditor was BCB.

Last week, in a libel action brought by Ashcroft against the Independent, the paper’s lawyers claimed the Tory peer was linked to Johnston which, they alleged, had benefited from a property boom in the TCI “knowing this boom was being created through systematic corruption”.

Ashcroft insists he has had no “economic beneficial or legal interest” in Johnston since he sold it in 1999.

Documents obtained by the BBC’s Panorama programme, however, suggest its chief executive, Allan Forrest, who was also a director of Oxford Ventures, reported to Ashcroft and also believed the peer owned Oxford.

Chris Johnson of CJA Associates, the insolvency practitioner charged with unpicking Oxford’s collapse, was last week given new powers by the TCI courts to request documents from Ashcroft’s bank. BCB has previously declined to provide Johnson with requested documents. On Friday the bank confirmed it would hand over Oxford’s bank statements.

“We have now obtained a court order in the Turks which empowers us to receive such documents,” said Johnson.

The Lib Dem peer, Lord Oakeshott, said he would be tabling parliamentary questions to establish what British officials in the TCI knew about Johnston. © 2012 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds