Multimillionaire who gave street sweeper £200,000 is suing him to get cash back

A multimillionaire who gave £200,000 to a street sweeper nearly ten years ago is now demanding the money back – plus interest.

John Rankin Cornforth inherited millions when his wealthy father died and gave local authority street cleaner Simon Denyer around the sum in three chunks between 2012 and 2014 after they became close.

But now he is suing his former friend to make him pay it back.

He had become “drinking buddies” with Mr Denyer after meeting him at a New Year’s Eve party and handed his impoverished pal £76,300 to cover the costs of an “acrimonious” divorce.

Then, he gave him another £125,000 to pay off the mortgage on his flat two years later.

But Mr Cornforth, 62, is now suing his former pal in a bid to make him pay all of the “enormous sum” back.

But Mr Denyer – who had been employed as a street cleaner by Guildford Borough Council – is fighting the case, claiming that the majority of the money was given as a “gift” by his rich friend.

Chris Howitt, for Mr Denyer, told Mayors and City County Court that the men first met at a New Year’s Eve Party in 1979 and had become “drinking partners and good buddies”.

They both came from wealthy family backgrounds, with Mr Denyer being the son of the former Mayor of Elmbridge whilst Mr Cornforth’s father was described in court as “a rich man who supported (him) generously throughout his life”.

But their fortunes had veered in opposite directions by 2012, with Mr Cornforth having inherited “millions of pounds” in cash and shares from his dad, whereas Mr Denyer was cleaning streets for the local council and facing a “highly acrimonious and thoroughly unpleasant” divorce from then wife Tracy.

Both of the former pals agree that Mr Cornforth handed Mr Denyer £26,300 to cover the legal costs of his divorce in 2012, another £50,000 to pay a settlement sum to his ex in 2013, and £125,000 to pay off the mortgage on his flat in the surrey village of Shalford in 2014.

But while Mr Denyer accepts that the divorce monies were loans and had to be paid back, he claims his pal paid off his mortgage as “a gift”.

He also says there was no interest payable on the loans made nearly ten years ago.

Mr Cornforth, however, insists that all the money he gave his pal was by way of loans which he is now demanding he repays.

He also wants interest on the divorce loans at one per cent above Bank of England base rate for the last ten years.

Giving evidence, Mr Cornforth told Judge Stephen Hellman that £200,000 is “not a huge sum” to him, but that he had “trusted” his pal to pay it back.

But his friend’s barrister replied: “For Mr Denyer, who is a street cleaner, that is an enormous sum,” going on to allege that Mr Cornforth had known Mr Denyer would not be able to pay him back.

“He was in a dire financial situation. This was a gift wasn’t it, because he was your friend, wasn’t it?” he asked.

“No,” Mr Cornforth replied.

David Brounger, for Mr Cornforth, explained that his case is that the two men agreed that all the monies were loans and would be repayable in ten years’ time, because Mr Denyer was hopeful that he would by then have come into an inheritance himself.

However, Mr Howitt told the judge that Mr Cornforth has “no written record” and “no documentary evidence” to prove that the monies handed over were loans, except for a reference in Mr Denyer’s divorce paperwork relating to the divorce cash.

But Mr Cornforth told the judge he had not asked for any written proof of making the loans to his pal “because I trusted him”.