A former director of a claims farmer has been imprisoned after removing funds while the company was on the brink of collapse. Christopher Bullough was jailed for 21 months after pleading guilty to one count of fraudulently removing funds and another of failing to provide company books and records to the liquidator.

The 46-year-old from Bury was sole director of personal injury claims handler Direct Assist Ltd, which was incorporated in 2007 and had offices in Bury and Bolton.

But the loss of a key client, which had been the main source of business, sent the company spiralling into financial trouble, which resulted in a petition lodged at court to wind-up the business in September 2014 in relation to a £658,000 unpaid tax bill.

According to a statement from the Insolvency Service, following the petition to wind-up the company, a ‘substantial’ amount of money was removed from the company’s accounts.

The company bank account was frozen to stop any more funds being removed, as well as preventing creditors losing out further, and after Direct Assist formally entered into compulsory liquidation in March 2015, an investigation was launched by the Insolvency Service.

Investigators initially could not find any evidence of company records from July 2013, but they were able to establish Bullough had fraudulently removed almost £51,000 between September and December 2014.

Around £28,000 went to family members, £3,600 worth of cash was removed from the company’s bank account and £18,500 was spent on Direct Assist’s credit card. Darren Bullough made a removal just one day after the winding-up petition was presented to the courts.

Sitting in Bolton Crown Court this week, Judge Stead also made a disqualification order for seven years, preventing him becoming involved in the promotion, formation or management of a company, without permission of the court.

Following sentencing, John Fitzsimmons, chief investigator for the Insolvency Service, said: ‘Darren Bullough was well-known as someone who led an extravagant lifestyle, spending money on expensive property and fast cars. But he recklessly removed funds from his business knowing that Direct Assist was in financial difficulty.

‘We welcome the court's substantial sentence and their recognition of the severity of Darren Bullough’s offences as not only was this money not his to do with as he pleased but by removing the funds, he denied payment that was rightfully owed to the company’s creditors.’