POLICE have launched an investigation into the affairs of a North Yorkshire antiques business whose boss is facing bankruptcy, the Evening Press can reveal today.

Detectives are investigating the Stonegate Antiques Centre following complaints from traders who deal with the York shop.

The probe comes as a petition for bankruptcy is lodged against the owner, York businessman Anthony Gilberthorpe.

Today a new antiques business was operating from the former centre after the building was seized by a creditor of Mr Gilberthorpe.

David Waggott, who claims that Mr Gilberthorpe owes him about £210,000, has set up The Antiques Centre York, which will run from the Stonegate site until the alleged debt is cleared.

Meanwhile Mr Gilberthorpe is due to face a bankruptcy hearing at the Royal Courts of Justice in London on February 13.

The action has been brought against Mr Gilberthorpe by HM Customs & Excise. A spokesman said the authority could not comment on individual cases.

Regarding the alleged complaints against the Stonegate Antiques Centre, a North Yorkshire Police spokesman said: "We have received complaints in relation to the Stonegate Antiques Centre. We are investigating and making inquiries into the complaints."

Mr Waggott's lawyer, Brian Mitchell, of Grays Solicitors, in Duncombe Place, York, said his client was running a new business at the site, adding that the lease was still held by Mr Gilberthorpe.

"Mr Gilberthorpe borrowed a significant sum of money from my client and granted him a mortgage over the premises as security.

"Mr Gilberthorpe gave the mortgage, Mr Waggott held it. As with any mortgage, provided the terms are met, the borrower retains the property.

"Mr Gilberthorpe is in arrears under the mortgage and over £210,000 is outstanding. He was in breach of the mortgage so my client re-took possession at 5.27pm on Friday, December 21.

"He remains the tenant, but Mr Waggott is now the mortgagee in possession. He will now occupy the property under a legal duty to maximise income to reduce the mortgage debt. Once that has been paid off, he will leave."

When the Evening Press visited the antiques centre, we found workmen erecting new signs, and a notice which read: "Please be advised that the former business of the Stonegate Antiques Centre is no longer trading from these premises."

Detective Constable Clive Rich, who is handling the North Yorkshire Police investigation, said the force had received complaints from traders regarding Mr Gilberthorpe's business dealings.

He said: "Certain complaints have been received, but we don't yet know whether there will be any criminal prosecutions.

"The investigation is in its initial stages, the police are fully aware of the situation and we will be looking into the matter."

The Evening Press tried to contact Mr Gilberthorpe through his solicitor, David Liddle, at Ware and Kay, but no comment was available at the time of going to press.

Updated: 11:03 Tuesday, December 31, 2002