Petra’s builder, the missing £1.6m and a 9-month jail term
Builder renovating £60m Chelsea home of Bernie Ecclestone’s daughter accused of pilfering £1.6m for luxury cars and prostitutes
Published 13/07/2014 | 11:52
When Bernie Ecclestone’s daughter, Petra Stunt, decided to renovate her new London home it was never likely to be a straightforward job.
Having already spent almost £60 million securing the 14-bedroom Sloane House in the heart of Chelsea, the famously profligate heiress ordered another £25 million of modifications, including a vast underground car park to house her billionaire husband James’s fleet of supercars.
She entrusted the job to Paul Fleury, a builder, property developer and friend who had worked on a number of projects for the Ecclestone family.
But after months of rubbing shoulders with the mega-rich it seems that Mr Fleury decided he wanted a bit of the lifestyle for himself.
Earlier this month the father of two, 46, was jailed for nine months after it was revealed that he had breached a court order freezing his assets while he was investigated on suspicion of pilfering £1.6 million from the project, and allegedly blowing it on foreign properties, luxury cars, strippers and prostitutes.
Such was the zest with which he embarked on his hedonistic spending spree that he allegedly managed to blow more than £100,000 in just one week at some of London’s most notorious gentleman’s clubs.
Problems began when Mrs Stunt, 25, and her team of interior designers drew up plans to redesign the Grade II-listed property, which is considered one of London’s finest Georgian properties.
The multi-million-pound alterations included building a new wing complete with a swimming pool and state-of-the-art gymnasium. In addition Mr Stunt requested that a vast underground garage be excavated to give him somewhere to park his car collection, which includes a £350,000 Lambourghini Aventador and at least two £250,000 Rolls-Royce Celestials. Mr Fleury, from Manchester, was brought in to manage the project, not just because of his experience in the building industry, but because he had become good friends with the Ecclestone family, who had invited him and his wife to Mr and Mrs Stunt’s £12 million wedding at an Italian castle in 2011.
With a budget of £25million, it was perhaps unsurprising that keeping track of all the spending was difficult.
Mrs Stunt, famed for her love of the finer things in life, became suspicious when a flurry of outlandish invoices began to appear, while Mr Fleury’s lifestyle had also taken a distinct upturn.
Neighbours in Manchester described how Mr Fleury would often be seen driving Ferraris, Range Rovers and other high-end cars. His wife Nicola’s Range Rover had a private number plate, like Mrs Stunt’s own run-around.
The family had upset locals by seeking planning permission to convert their property into a nursing home. One neighbour, who claimed Mrs Fleury had spent up to £25,000 on lawyers in the planning battle, claimed the Fleurys were “determined to get their own way.”
She added: “They are not very popular — they just do whatever they want and I do not think anyone will be particularly sad to hear he has been jailed.”
Mrs Fleury is not suspected of any wrongdoing.
After becoming deeply concerned about Mr Fleury’s invoices, Mrs Stunt’s lawyers took the highly unusual move of applying to the courts for an asset-freezing order, meaning the builder was not allowed to spend large sums of money while the courts investigated his activities. It also stipulated that he should declare all major assets, including property and vehicles.
Investigators discovered that as well as splashing out on a number of luxurious vehicles, Mr Fleury had a very expensive social life. Court documents seen by The Telegraph show he spent £110,667.37 at strip clubs such as The Windmill in Soho and escort agencies, including Park Lane VIP Services.
Mr Fleury has since separated from his wife, who declined to discuss the matter at the family home. Earlier this month Mrs Stunt’s legal team, from the firm Mishcon de Reya, went back to court after fearing that Mr Fleury had breached the terms of the order by trying to move money around and failing to declare that he owned a villa in Spain. When the High Court judge agreed, he was jailed for nine months. The matter is now being investigated by Scotland Yard. In his judgment, Mr Justice Turner said Mr Fleury’s attitude to the truth “involved not so much the application of economy but of austerity”.
Mrs Stunt said: “As this matter is now in the hands of the Metropolitan Police, it would be inappropriate for me to comment further.”