Revealed: What happened to the city council's cash collector...and the missing millions

(Photograph: Eddie Mitchell){}
(Photograph: Eddie Mitchell){}

It is fair to say that nobody quite knows the amount of money that has gone missing.

It is fair to say that nobody quite knows the amount of money that has gone missing. Or why. Or even where it is.

CCI routinely collected vast amounts of money from parking meters across Brighton and Hove

CCI routinely collected vast amounts of money from parking meters across Brighton and Hove

One thing is certain: When Coin Co International (CCI) went into administration, it owed Brighton and Hove City Council more than £3.2 million.

Most of it was the cash we put in parking meters across the city. It was our money - but the chances of it getting back are minimal.

John Baker, CCI's 68-year-old founder - and a former detective sergeant in the Metropolitan Police - is adamant that he and his closest family - his fellow directors - did not misappropriate any money. The other CCI directors have included his wife Doreen, son Sean, and daughter Joanne.

When Brighton and Hove Independent visited the family's £1 million home in Hurstpierpoint, nobody was available to answer our questions.

John Baker, chief executive of Coin Co International

John Baker, chief executive of Coin Co International

Which is a pity. What we wanted to know was:

Why did the company fail to pass across promptly the cash it collected on behalf of Brighton and Hove City Council?

Why did the company operate 28 different bank accounts, self-consciously eschewing the usual practice of keeping money safe in discrete client accounts?

What exactly was the nature of the company's activities in Morocco, Turkey, and Tunisia - as well as in Germany, Australia, Canada, and Ireland?

How Brighton and Hove Independent broke the news in July last year (above) and last week (left)

How Brighton and Hove Independent broke the news in July last year (above) and last week (left)

Baker Tilly, the chartered accountants who are acting as administrators, have noted in an official report that CCI went from having shareholders' funds of £1,337,035 on September 30 2014 to having a deficit to creditors of £8,078,316, within less than four months.

Organisations that are owed substantial amounts include the NHS, the National Gallery, the National Trust, First Capital, and charities such as include Jewish Care. As unsecured creditors, none is likely to get its money back.

For his part, Mr Baker - in a formal statement to administrators - denies any wrongdoing: "I can honestly say that no money has ever been misappropriated by us and that we have always acted in the best interest of the company, the shareholders, and our clients."

He added: "We still genuinely believe that we must have overpaid one or more of our clients during this period and we are still doing everything we can to identify where this money went so it can be recovered."

At a meeting of Brighton and Hove City Council's audit and standards committee, councillors were told on Tuesday (September 23): "It is not possible at this stage to give an indication of the likely success in achieving any funds arising out of the insolvency process. The council will continue to take specialist legal advice at the appropriate stages to decide how best to act in its own interests as a major creditor."

The company that coined it in, until it went bust with £3m of our money