Property tycoons the Candy brothers have been accused of blackmail, extortion and intimidation by a former business partner as part of a £132million lawsuit.
Mark Holyoake claims Nick and Christian Candy blackmailed him with mafia-style threats about the safety of both himself and his pregnant wife.
The businessman and the Candy brothers fell out over a £12m loan they made to him to help fund the luxury Grosvenor Gardens in London’s Belgravia.
Mr Holyoake, who has known Nick Candy since university, hoped to make more than £100m on the redevelopment, which he bought for about £42m in 2011.
But now he has accused the Candys of reneging on the loan deal and pressuring him into agreeing to disadvantageous repayments.
According to legal documents, Nick Candy at one point warned Mr Holyoake, ‘as a friend’, that he must do everything his brother demanded, or he might sell the debt to ‘certain people, possibly Russians, who would not think twice about hurting Mr Holyoake or his family to get what they wanted’.
Today, Roger Stewart QC opened proceedings and said Mr Holyoake was pressured into repaying £37m and pulling out of the development, losing £100m in potential profits by selling it before completion.
He said: ‘Mr Holyoake was the victim of an unlawful conspiracy which involved the defendants subjecting him to a long-running, highly unpleasant and malicious campaign of threats, abuse, intimidation and coercion directed at himself and his family.
‘This included threats to the physical well-being of Mr Holyoake, his pregnant wife and their unborn child.
‘The purpose of this conspiracy was to enable the defendants to obtain the valuable property at an undervalue and or extort very significant sums of money from Mr Holyoake and Hotblack.’
The claim alleged that in 2012 Christian Candy made aggressive demands for early repayment of the loan.
Holyoake said he had felt under so much pressure he agreed to his terms to escape ‘threats and intimidation’.
He is claiming more than £100 million for his alleged losses on the Grosvenor development, and said his total losses exceed £132 million.
The Candy brothers, who own many properties in the UK capital including One Hyde Park, deny making threats and claim Holyoake breached the loan agreement.
They also say he willingly agreed a final settlement of the dispute in October 2013, only to launch a legal claim the following year.
The trial is due to last seven weeks.