Police investigating potential tax fraud have raided the Australian offices of the company wanting to buy and revive the Britishvolt project in Northumberland.
The offices of Scale Facilitation – parent company of new Britishvolt owner Recharge Industries – have been raided. Recharge wants to revive the Britishvolt scheme to build a battery gigafactory at Cambois, near Blyth, and create up to 3,000 jobs, though the deal announced in February it has not yet completed.
It is hoped that the gigafactory scheme would create thousands of jobs in a disadvantaged area of the North East, as well as helping the UK’s net zero ambitious.
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But in an unfortunate echo of some of the travails that afflicted the Britishvolt project during its tumultuous efforts to get the gigafactory project off the ground, it has been reported that staff wages at the firm’s Australian offices went unpaid for two weeks. Payments are now understood to have been met.
Recharge acquired Britishvolt’s assets for £8.6m in March but has been negotiating with Northumberland County Council over the actual site as the authority has a buy-back clause over the land in the event a battery plant was not built there.
In a statement to BusinessLive last month, Recharge insisted the project was on track. That statement said: “We’ve developed a great working relationship with the council in a short space of time and share a joint vision for the huge benefits a gigafactory could bring to Northumberland and the wider North East. The council has been good to its word to ‘bend over backwards’ in helping us to deliver a gigafactory project on the site and the thousands of jobs it will secure.
“Recharge Industries continues to work collaboratively with the NCC and Grant Thornton has been appointed by the Council to review the valuation of the buy back and provide recommendations to them.”
The original Britishvolt scheme foundered due to its inability to attract sufficient funding for the massive outlay involved in building a gigafactory. Though Government backing of £100m had been agreed, unlocking £1.7bn from private investment groups, the funding never materialised due to the firm’s inability to meet certain milestones.
The company’s reputation had also been rocked in its early days after the revelation that its chairman and co-founder Lars Carlstrom had a conviction in Sweden for tax fraud. After Britishvolt’s collapse into administration in January, critics pointed to the firm’s lack of experience in setting up such a massive project only a few years after it had been founded.
BusinessLive has contacted Recharge Industries for comment.
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