Lawyer who stole £400k on brink of financial ruin

Michael Karus denied embezzling �413,052. Picture: Deadline
Michael Karus denied embezzling �413,052. Picture: Deadline
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A PROPERTY firm owned by a disgraced New Town solicitor jailed for embezzling more than £400,000 from a dead woman’s estate has plunged into administration over unpaid debts.

Michael Karus, who was locked up for three-and-a-half years for the massive fraud, set up Playfair Investments Ltd following his release to manage part of his property portfolio.

But a loan company has forced the company into administration after the 53-year-old took out a “substantial” sum in mortgages and could not make the payments.

Westfoot Investments Ltd, based in Sheffield, appointed an administrator last Friday and several properties in Edinburgh and elsewhere could now be sold off to meet the debts.

It is understood this includes properties in Gloucester Place and St Stephen Street in the New Town, Albert Place in Leith, Panmure Place in Tollcross, Roseburn Place in Roseburn and two more in Paisley.

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. It was not the first time that Karus chose a name loaded with hidden meaning for one of his enterprises. He was known to boast of being a “shark” who preyed on vulnerable victims and even named two of his firms GWS (Great White Shark) and Mako – after the shark – in celebration of his predatory style.

A former associate of Karus said: “It’s not surprising this has happened. Sooner or later all his companies end up in administration, either deliberately or involuntarily.

“He has no cash flow at the moment. I am surprised he was able to get any financing. He’s a struck off solicitor and banned director who’s never out of court. He usually sets up a company to target victims then the company gets liquidated and he disappears.”

The crooked former solicitor used Playfair to launch an £11 million legal action at the Court of Session against his own sister and her husband in a bid to recover property he transferred into their names to protect his empire. Karus admitted carrying out the transfer to hide his real worth from his estranged wife, to stop her launching a divorce claim for part of his fortune. Karus made his fortune dealing in property in the Capital over the last 20 years.

He was jailed in October 2009 after admitting embezzling £413,052 while acting as executor of the estate of Edith Hampton, 89, who died in 2003. Westfoot Investments Ltd could not be reached for comment.

Sheffield-based Wosskow Brown Solicitors, who witnessed documents appointing the administrator, said Westfoot had paid a standard 
£5 charge for the service and was not its client.

Karus could not be reached for comment.