Helicopter firm collapses owing £533k after boss sent to US prison

Richard Harper, former MD of Apple International Inc Ltd

Richard Harper, former MD of Apple International Inc Ltd, plead guilty to fraud for sale of parts and spent six months in a US jail - Credit: Eastern Daily Press © 2012

A helicopter company based in Norfolk has fallen into liquidation owing more than half a million pounds after its managing director was arrested overseas and spent six months in a US jail.

Apple International, which was based near Long Stratton, refurbished BELL helicopters before selling them on, with the bulk of trade happening in the US.

The company, led by Richard Harper, began facing trouble after the 2008 financial crash but finally collapsed last year after the boss was arrested at the US border - en route to a helicopter convention - for fraud for sale of parts, international money laundering and identity theft. 

Mr Harper plead guilty to the fraud allegation and spent six months in an American jail, with the other charges dropped. He has since been released and is believed to be back in Norfolk.

Richard Harper, MD of Apple International Inc Ltd. The company buys and refurbishes Bell helicopters

Richard Harper, former MD of Apple International Inc Ltd which refurbished Bell helicopters before selling them on. - Credit: Eastern Daily Press © 2012

Richard Cacho, of RCM Advisory, was appointed administrator in February 2020 before transitioning to a company liquidation in March this year in order to recoup some of the £533,236.31 owed to creditors, the majority of which are not based in Norfolk. 

Mr Cacho said: "I was appointed by directors based in the US who were unaware of the situation and were very shocked by the news. 

"I am confident that we will be able to repay a healthy dividend to creditors. Often when people see liquidation they think nothing will be paid out which at this stage I am hopeful will not be the case." 

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Mr Cacho said that there were no preferential creditors on the statement of affairs - which features sums like £59,964 to Ohio-based Airwolf Aerospace and £46,564 to Belgravia's Ebury Partners Finance. 

Mr Cacho added: "What was essentially being done at Apple International was older aircrafts were bought, painted up, and sold on - often to Texan ranchers. 

"The incident in question saw one helicopter refurbished out of parts for three different crafts. The bulk of the craft was made from an older helicopter, however the final craft's flying hours were registered as the parts of one of the less-used and younger former aircrafts. 

"This was then attempted to be sold to undercover Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) officers and later to a rancher, however it has now been impounded by the FAA."

He added that three members of staff working in the company's factory in the US had been paid redundancy.

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