Australian police raid offices of new Britishvolt owner
Image credit: Owen Humphreys/PA Images
Offices held by the new owner of Britishvolt have been raided by authorities in Australia investigating suspected tax fraud, throwing uncertainty over plans to press ahead with its UK battery factory.
Australian entrepreneur David Collard purchased parts of defunct Britishvolt out of administration earlier this year, with the promise of reviving its plans to build a large-scale battery factory in Blyth, Northumberland.
Collard’s company, Recharge Industries, said the Britishvolt scheme to build the battery gigafactory will create up to 3,000 jobs. However, Collard is yet to purchase the land for the plant, despite the announcement in February.
The tax fraud investigation relates to SaniteX, a business owned by Collard that provides services to some of his other companies, including Scale Facilitation, the entity that owns Britishvolt.
Tax investigators from the Australian Federal Police arrived at offices shared by SaniteX and Scale Foundation last Friday (23 June) to seize IT and communications equipment, as part of a probe into the business that has been going on for close to two months, according to people with knowledge of the investigation.
A spokesperson for Scale Facilitation said that it denied any wrongdoing and claimed the visit from police resulted from a “misunderstanding”.
“We have and will continue to fully co-operate with the Australian Taxation Office and now the AFP,” said a spokesperson for Scale Facilitation. “We deny any wrongdoing and will continue working with our legal and other advisers to defend any matters arising from these discussions.”
Insiders close to Recharge confirmed that staff wages in Australia had gone unpaid for around two weeks but insisted those payments had now been made.
The raid comes as Collard is in the delicate process of lining up funding and partners for the Britishvolt plant, a project that was already delayed under its previous owners and will probably require billions of pounds of investment.
But Recharge said it remained confident it could secure the funding to complete the purchase of the land near Blyth in the next two to four weeks and that the firm hopes that a deal to develop the £4bn plant can proceed.
“We’ve developed a great working relationship with the council in a short space of time and share a joint vision for the huge benefits a gigafactory could bring to Northumberland and the wider North East,” Recharge said in a statement last month.
“The council has been good to its word to ‘bend over backwards’ in helping us to deliver a gigafactory project on the site and the thousands of jobs it will secure.”
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