COBBLERS LOAN HEARING: Former Northampton Town owner questioned in hearing over £2 million 'received from stadium developers'

Tony Cardoza, pictured here in 2006
Tony Cardoza, pictured here in 2006

A former Northampton Town owner told a court he had no knowledge cheques he received from the firm behind the failed Sixfields development came from the missing £10.25 million stadium loan.

Northampton Borough Council launched a legal case against former Cobblers owners Anthony and David Cardoza in December 2015, claiming the men did not use all of a £10.25m loan for its intended purpose - to develop the dilapidated Sixfields stadium in 2013.

A ten-day High Court trial was launched earlier this week.

Today and yesterday, Anthony Cardoza was called to the stand to explain some £2 million he received from the developers of the stadium, County Group Limited over the course of 2013 and 2014.

The Bushey-based firm, owned by Howard Grossman, was given more than £7 million from the council loan to complete stadium works over 2013 and 2014.

However, the court heard yesterday how, within days of the payments to County Group firms, money was paid back to Anthony Cardoza himself via cheque on four occasions. One cheque was worth £900,000.

The borough council says this “circular” form of payment is proof that Anthony Cardoza was indirectly receiving the loan money intended for the stadium and putting it towards property investments for him and his family.

Referring to a £250,000 payment Mr Cardoza received on March 4, 2014, the borough council barrister James Morgan QC asked Mr Cardoza: “What kind of conversations end up with £250,000 appearing in your bank account?”

Mr Cardoza answered: “It didn’t, it was given to me as a cheque.”

He claimed the cheque was handed to him in person by Howard Grossman, the owner of County Group and the firm 1st Land Limited, which was set up for the purpose of building the new stadium and developing a hotel in the site.

Other County Group directors Marcus Grossman and Simon Patnick were at a meeting beforehand, he claimed, as well as then borough council leader David Mackintosh.

“They had something to talk about that I wasn’t involved in,” said Mr Cardoza.

“I saw Mr Grossman and he gave me an envelope with a cheque in it.”

Mr Morgan then asked him: “You knew you had this money because 1st Land had been given money from the football club?”

Mr Cardoza replied: “I can’t be more clear, what Mr Grossman did with his business was nothing I was involved in.”

Mr Cardoza later said that Mr Grossman was the sort of man that “if you got a cheque from him you took it and run.”

Later Mr Morgan put to Mr Cardoza that some of the funds he received from County Group firms were ploughed into a company he set up called Artefact, which was used to develop properties, including a house in Milton Keynes.

“I’m going to suggest to you Mr Cardoza, that money from the council was being used to allow you to buy investment properties,” said Mr Morgan.

“That’s not correct,” answered Mr Cardoza, who regularly insisted the monies he received would be drip-fed back to the football club as and when it needed.

By the time a tranche of the council loan was passed onto 1at Land on July, 2014, Mr Cardoza claimed he was starting to have suspicions about the way the company was using the money.

But in court, he admitted not passing his concerns onto the council.

Hours later, on July 23, Mr Cardoza received a £600,000 payment from 1st Land, the court heard.

“What did you do personally to bring to the council’s attention that you had suspicions the council’s money was being misused?” asked Mr Morgan.

“I didn’t know anyone at the council at that time,” Mr Cardoza replied.

Even when he withheld the final tranche of the loan payment to 1st Land later that year because of his concerns, Mr Cardoza did not inform the council, the court heard.

He said he had instead passed on his concerns to then MP for Northampton South, Brian Binley.

“You knew that this sorry wheel of money going round in circles was going to come back to you,” the barrister asked.

But Mr Cardoza replied: “that suggestion is ludicrous.”

The hearing continues.