MIPIM 2011: Tchenguiz arrests cause furore

The annual property show in the south of France has been rocked by the arrests of two high-profile UK property entrepreneurs.

Forget real estate markets, bank lending, the finance gap, and the rest: it was the arrest of two individuals that has taken over the MIPIM property show in Cannes here today.

Vincent and Robert Tchenguiz, brothers that are nowadays described as UK property moguls, were arrested this morning as part of an investigation into the collapse of Kaupthing, the Icelandic bank that went bust in 2008.

According to a report by the Financial Times, enforcement officers from the Serious Fraud Office and the City of London police made the arrests early this morning, while offices at Rotch Property, the investment vehicle that controls the brothers’ property portfolio, have also been raided, the newspaper said.

Two business properties and eight residential addresses in London were searched, with seven men arrested and taken to police stations. In Reykjavik, two residential properties were searched and two men arrested, the SFO confirmed.

Vincent Tchenguiz was due to travel to MIPIM today, where he has a yacht for the week-long event. The only occupants on the boat, well known  for its vibrant hospitality in previous years, were its crew today.

The arrests have gripped the property show – particularly those delegates operating in the UK property market, where the Tchenguiz brothers have been among the highest profile of private property investors, having built up a property empire that, before the credit crunch, was valued in the billions of pounds.

It has also served as a timely reminder of the excesses of the recent past, just as mainstream property participants at MIPIM begin to enjoy more optimism about their respective markets than they did this time last year.

This year's MIPIM has attracted more than 18,000 delegates, according to event organisers.