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‘Britain’s FBI’ is accused of wrecking 14th Century hotel’s reputation after getting host of bad reviews over ‘poor service’ and ‘sterile’ atmosphere when it took it over amid money laundering probe

  • Britain’s equivalent of the FBI has been accused of wrecking a 14th century hotel
  • The NCA took over White Horse Hotel, Romsey, for a money laundering probe 
  • But it’s accused of trashing the inn’s reputation and losing taxpayers millions
  • In just a few months the agency managed to take the hotel ‘downmarket’ 

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Britain’s equivalent of the FBI has served up a Fawlty Towers-style farce in its handling of a historic hotel during a major investigation.

The National Crime Agency took over the White Horse Hotel in Romsey, Hampshire, as part of a probe into money laundering.

However the NCA has now been accused of trashing the 14th-century inn’s reputation as well as losing taxpayers millions.

In just a few months, the agency managed to take the hotel ‘downmarket’ – in the words of a judge – losing customers as well as staff and gaining nothing but bad reviews.

Britain's equivalent of the FBI has served up a Fawlty Towers-style farce in its handling of a historic hotel during a major investigation

Britain’s equivalent of the FBI has served up a Fawlty Towers-style farce in its handling of a historic hotel during a major investigation

The National Crime Agency took over the White Horse Hotel in Romsey, Hampshire, as part of a probe into money laundering

The National Crime Agency took over the White Horse Hotel in Romsey, Hampshire, as part of a probe into money laundering

Now the NCA has sold the Romsey hotel for just £2.5million – a fraction of its real value and less than half the £6.8million the Government spends every single day housing asylum seekers in hotels.

The saga began in May 2019 when the NCA announced it had obtained £6million worth of assets ‘including an award-winning luxury hotel’ as part of a long-running probe.

It took possession of the White Horse as part of a civil court settlement in a haul that also included a £100,000 Bentley as a number of defendants agreed to hand over assets rather than face a trial.

The 29-bedroom coaching inn had a four-star rating as well as a highly-regarded brasserie, and the NCA estimated it could be worth as much as £5million.

But the previous owners could not agree on a price for its fixtures and fittings, so they removed them all when they left at the end of September 2019.

The NCA cancelled all of the existing room and event bookings and bought new furniture for the place, appointing as managers a company that specialises in taking over pubs that have gone bust.

When it reopened in November that year, 36 of the 49 previous employees were kept on but it soon became apparent that it was not the same boutique destination as before.

The NCA has now been accused of trashing the 14th-century inn’s reputation as well as losing taxpayers millions

The NCA has now been accused of trashing the 14th-century inn’s reputation as well as losing taxpayers millions

In the words of an employment judge who handled a dispute over redundancy payments: ‘It went downmarket. It is a less luxurious hotel and the restaurant offering would no longer be described as fine dining.’

Online reviews complained of ‘very poor service’ and lamented ‘it’s all gone wrong here’ with a ‘sterile’ atmosphere and food having gone ‘downhill’. Staff also said that new mattresses did not fit the beds and water was leaking into rooms.

After two years of mismanagement, the NCA sold the White Horse last year.

New Land Registry documents obtained by the Mail show it made £2.5million from the sale – far less than originally hoped and making a loss after spending millions on refurbishment and running costs.

But while taxpayers have lost out, the NCA’s unlikely venture into hospitality has ended happily for some.

The White Horse, now owned by The Coaching Inn Group, reopened in May after a proper refurbishment and has regained its four-star rating.

Last night an NCA spokesman said: ‘This investigation concerned alleged money laundering and ultimately the defendants agreed to the settlement rather than face trial.

‘The sale of the hotel was delayed by the pandemic. The NCA took on considerable repair work necessary as a result of the state in which the property was handed over.’

Source: Daily Mail UK

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