TWO adopted sons went to to war at the High Court last week, with one accusing the other of "plundering" £1.8 millon from their elderly mother to fund a "lavish lifestyle" for him and his grasping wife. Paul Hodson, 41, of Frensham Road, Lower Bourne, claims his brother, Mark, brought "undue influence" to bear on their wealthy adoptive mother in order to "systematically defraud" her of a fortune. He claims his 38-year-old brother - to whom he is not blood related - spent the cash to satisfy his wife's demands for luxury and vast sums went on, among other things, a £195,000 Gobi powerboat, a high-end Porsche sports car and a £10,000 hot-tub. Paul is now the executor of what is left of the estate of Ruby Hodson - who lived for much of her life in Hastings and died aged 77 in May this year - and is suing Mark and his wife, Kim, for the money back. They couple, now separated, deny any wrong-doing. London's High Court heard Mrs Hodson lived in Hong Kong for many years and had servants to attend her every domestic need. Her husband, John Claude Hodson, was a former head of taxation worldwide for HSBC Bank and his death in 2001 had left her "extremely upset and vulnerable", Paul's counsel, Max Mallin, told top judge, Mr Justice Patten. By then, Mrs Hodson, a housewife all her life with no financial acumen, "was showing signs of mental decline" and, despite being a millionaire, "had no idea that she owned anything at all", added the barrister. Mr Mallin told the judge that, between November 2001 - immediately after her husband's death - and January last year, "payments in excess of £900,000" were made out of the vulnerable widow's bank accounts. Various "transactions" - including the sale of Mrs Hodson's share portfolio and property purchases - took place that effectively stripped Mrs Hodson of "about £1.8 million" before she was "released into the care" of Paul in April last year, said the barrister. Paul, an IT manager, told the judge that he and Mark had always enjoyed a good relationship until Mark met his wife-to-be, Kim, in July 1994. He said he believed Mark - who was declared bankrupt in July 2004 owing more than half a million punds - had been placed under "intense pressure" by Kim to provide a luxurious lifestyle, prompting him to "misappropriate" huge sums from their mother. He told the judge: "Kim seemed to me to covet money and expressed a desire to own luxurious cars and have a high standard of living. "I felt that my brother was placed under intense pressure to deliver a certain standard of living, regardless of what he could afford." Mrs Hodson left the family home at Collinswood Drive, Hastings, in 2002 and eventually moved in with Mark and Kim at £600,000 Farthingdown Comb, in Wellington, Somerset, where a small "granny" annexe was built for her. Mrs Hodson "contributed 100 per cent of the purchase price" for Farthingdown Comb and it was at first owned in her and Kim's joint names. However, in February 2003, it was transferred into Kim's sole name, Mr Mallin told the court. Last year, Mark and Kim separated and Paul told the court his brother rang him for help. He said he went round to see their mother and it was only then that he realised how she had been "funding their lavish lifestyle". Mark's bankruptcy allowed Paul to gain access to their mother's bank accounts, at which point he said he fully realised "the shocking extent to which my mother's accounts and assets had been plundered". Referring to the purchase of the sports car and the power boat, Mr Mallin told the judge: "These are items that were obviously for the sole benefit of Mark and which could not conceivably have been for the benefit of Mrs Hodson. "We submit that the facts of this case show that Mark and Kim acted as though the property of Mrs Hodson was available to them to deal with as they saw fit". He told the judge "a series of transactions" entered into by Mrs Hodson "had the effect of depriving her of the benefit of all, or substantially all, of her assets". "Mark and Kim caused the transfers to be made without Mrs Hodson's consent or, alternatively, they caused Mrs Hodson to consent to the transfers by the exercise of undue influence," he claimed. Paul Hodson's claim is also against a company which owns one disputed property and a former partner in a now defunct law firm who, Mr Mallin claimed, "went along with the wishes" of Mark and Kim although he was "purportedly acting" for Mrs Hodson. Mr Mallin said it is Mark's case that he had no responsibility for the transactions - which he left in the hands of the lawyer - and that he was helping his mother to "restructure her finances to make them more controllable" and to secure her a "healthy return" on a property investment. He insists Paul was "consulted at all times" on the transactions, that his brother consented to him and Kim handling their mother's affairs and that "no illegitimate pressure" was brought to bear on Mrs Hodson. The widow, he said, wanted "gifts and trusts to be set up for inheritance tax purposes and for other transactions to benefit her immediate, caring, family". Kim also denies any wrong-doing and, in particular, says that Mrs Hodson's "gift" to her of her share of Farthingdown Comb was made at the widow's instigation. She also insists she "knew nothing and was not responsible" for the "transfers" of Mrs Hodson's assets. However, Mr Mallin told the judge: "There is no sensible explanation for the transfers. And the circumstances in which they were made point overwhelmingly to the conclusion that Mark was benefiting himself and his family at the expense of Mrs Hodson without proper authority or consent". Mr Justice Patton agreed to adjourn the case until yesterday (Thursday) after hearing that one of the brothers - Mark Hodson - wished to take further legal advice.
Brothers at war over mother’s £1.8m fortune
Friday 3rd November 2006 12:00 am