A CROOKED New Town solicitor whose property firm plunged into administration over unpaid debts drew up secret plans to sell off the assets at knockdown prices to his own partner.
Michael Karus, who was jailed for three-and-a-half years for embezzling more than £400,000 from a dead woman’s estate, set up Playfair Investments Ltd following his release to manage part of his property portfolio.
A loan company forced the firm into administration last month after the 53-year-old took out a “substantial” sum in mortgages and could not make the payments.
It is understood Karus prepared to sell a number of the properties held by Playfair to Tanya Murray, the 38-year-old mother of his child.
Speaking through his solicitors, Karus said the firm “considered a transfer of certain assets at a time when it would have been perfectly proper and legal to do so” but did not proceed after administrators became involved.
But the move raised suspicions Karus had been planning to “escape the clutches of the administrators” by offloading properties to his partner at below market rates.
Earlier this year Karus settled an £11 million legal battle with his own sister and brother-in-law after suing them to recover assets he transferred into their names to protect his property empire.
The disgraced ex-lawyer had planned for Ms Murray to take ownership of the Playfair portfolio on March 31 – weeks before administrators were called in.
One property in Roseburn Place in Roseburn was set to be sold to Ms Murray for £100,000 despite being valued at closer to £200,000 by experts. It was previously bought in 1999 for £100,000.
Another property in St Stephen Street in the New Town was due to be sold to Ms Murray for just £68,000 despite being a two-floor site currently occupied by a restaurant.
And a two-bedroom property in Paisley was to be sold for £56,550 with similar flats nearby valued at £75,000.
It is understood properties in Albert Place in Leith, Panmure Place in Tollcross and another address in Paisley were also set to be offloaded from Playfair.
A source said: “I don’t know how Tanya Murray would have the money to buy these properties. Karus obviously wanted to keep them away from the administrators.”
Westfoot Investments Ltd, based in Sheffield, appointed an administrator in June and several Playfair properties were facing being sold off to meet debts. At least two more loan companies are also chasing Karus for money.
Another source said: “It was an attempt to escape the clutches of the administrators.”
Divorced Karus and Ms Murray have been together for around ten years.
Karus was banned from running a company in 2004 after one of his firms, Arrowbay, went bust with debts of £274,000. He established Playfair Investments in 2011 to relaunch his business career after the ban lapsed.
Solicitor Michael Foster, from firm Hughes Dowdall representing Karus, said: “No properties have been transferred to Tanya Murray, for any price.”
Westfoot could not be reached for comment.