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17 February 2010, 17:01
Five former directors of a timeshare firm have been disqualified for a total of 32 years after hundreds of people were subjected to "high-pressure and aggressive'' sales pitches, the insolvency service announced.
Senior figures at Worldwide International UK Limited were given the bans following an investigation by the Companies Investigation Branch (CIB).
The Hampshire firm, which marketed timeshare and holiday products, was run with a "serious lack of commercial probity'', leading to several complaints to trading standards.
More than 600 people and couples were persuaded by "high-pressure and aggressive sales methods'' to buy holiday ownerships from or via the company for a total of around £3.5 million, the investigation found.
Guidance to salesmen at the Andover-based firm advised staff to "always remember the clients have been guided on a long and twisting path to get this far'' and to "button up all the way to the bank''.
They were also told: "Using your pen, direct them to read only what you want them to read.''
As to clients requiring finance, the advice was: "You should never go into too much detail about finance ... remember you control what they read and when they sign.''
Bruce John Goss, 63, controlling director of the largely family-run firm, failed to co-operate with the investigation and is now believed to live in India, the CIB said.
The CIB believes he caused the company to trade while insolvent and was responsible for "intermingling'' the accounts of several companies.
There was also a failure to keep proper accounts and failure to pay debts.
A forensic accountant's report claimed the financial situation of the company was caused by selling holiday inventory at a loss to generate cash. The Goss family also had a "propensity'' to transfer surplus funds to their own accounts, it is claimed.
In her judgment, disqualifying Bruce Goss in his absence, High Court Registrar Christine Derrett said: "I am therefore satisfied that the allegations made against Mr Goss disclose persistent and serious dishonesty.
"I am satisfied that Mr Goss has caused the company systematically to take substantial sums of money from customers based on false information and high-pressure sales tactics.
"Even when the company's financial situation was clearly hopeless he allowed it to continue to take money from customers and those customers who sought explanations were lied to and deceived. I am satisfied that Mr Goss is to be regarded as principally responsible for the actions of the company.
"His co-directors and employees, most of whom are members of his family, have all stated that he was the guiding mind, the person behind the network of companies.''
Bruce Goss was disqualified for eight years at the hearing in November last year, but the final order was only drawn up last month.
His disbarring brings to an end a long struggle to bring the family to justice.
In November 2008 his associates were all barred for between four and eight years.
His son Darryl Goss, 43, of Ross-shire, was disqualified for eight years, and Darryl's wife Alison Goss, 48, for four years.
His brother Peter Goss, of Northampton, age not recorded, and Dawn Loe, 55, of Salisbury, were both barred for six years.