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SHATTERED; Enquiry into glass-making firm is closed as fraud team lacks evidence for prosecution.

Byline: By LUKE TRAYNOR

A FRAUD investigation into a collapsed Merseyside glass firm has closed because there is not enough evidence to prosecute.

Ravenhead Glass, based in St Helens, was closed in 2001 with debts of pounds 17m leading to hundreds of job losses.

The Belgian-owned business was placed into administration and workers were left thousands of pounds out of pocket.

A black hole of pounds 5m was left in the company's pension fund and the serious fraud office was called in to study a series of criminal allegations.

Claims of mismanagement, misuse of company funds, fraudulent trading or false accounting were made against the firm.

But today, the SFO announced its six-year investigation was over as there was insufficient evidence to justify a prosecution.

St Helens MPs Shaun Woodward and Dave Watts - who raised the question of wrongdoings at the firm in the House of Commons - today told the ECHO they were unhappy with the SFO's findings.

They have vowed to find out why fraud experts believe they have no further grounds to take the matter to court.

Mr Watts said: "This news is a bitter disappointment for many people who retired getting just half of what they were owed.

"This investigation has gone on for six years and the cost must be substantial as it's branched out across the world.

"I'm not satisfied all the issues have been looked at, but I'm not hopeful this decision will be reversed.

"Former emploees of Ravenhead will feel let down.

"This was the last pot glass manufacturer in the country with sons, fathers and grandfathers working together.

"For many, it was like a family, which was lost overnight."

According to receivers Begbies Traynor, Belgian parent company Durabor sold millions of pieces of glassware to Ravenhead which the St Helens firm was unable to sell on in sufficient quantities.

The receivers made an astonishing discovery of a glass mountain, containing 30 million items which were stockpiled at the St Helens firm.

The 17-acre actory site is located a mile south of junction seven of the M62.

Durabor maintains it lost a lot of money on Ravenhead and insists there was no wrongdoing.

A spokesman for the serious fraud office said: "Following a lengthy investigation, in conjunction with Merseyside police, the SFO has decided the evidence as a whole is in sufficient to justify a prosecution."

luketraynor@liverpoolecho.co.uk

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ANGER: Shaun Woodward MP is unhappy with the Serious Fraud Office
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Publication:Liverpool Echo (Liverpool, England)
Date:Dec 15, 2006
Words:410
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