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Detectives are investigating the activities at the centre following complaints from traders who deal there. The probe comes as a petition for bankruptcy has been lodged against Mr Gilberthorpe by HM Customs and Excise.

A new antiques business is operating from the centre after one of Mr Gilberthorpe’s creditors seized the building. David Waggott, who claims that Mr Gilberthorpe owes him about £210,000, has set up The Antiques Centre York, which he says will run from the Stonegate site until the alleged debt is cleared. Mr Gilberthorpe is vowing to regain control of the centre, however, and says he has instructed his solicitors to take action.

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

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

He said that Mr Waggott had loaned a “significant sum of money” to Mr Gilberthorpe, who granted him a mortgage over the premises as security. Mr Waggott had repossessed the premises following a “breach” of that mortgage, he added.

DC Clive Rich, who is handling the North Yorkshire Police investigation, said the force had received complaints from traders regarding Mr Gilberthorpe’s business

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.”

In a statement, Mr Gilberthorpe said: “After six-and-a-half years in Stonegate and without my knowledge my business was entered on December 20 and closed without an appropriate court order.
“Accordingly I have instructed my solicitors to take action to repossess, and in doing so I have given evidence of this and other wrongdoing to both the Inland Revenue and the police.

“I do believe when they are able to investigate more closely that I will re-establish Stonegate Antiques Centre in York.”

Mr Mitchell replied saying that a lender was able to repossess without a court order with “this type of mortgage” and said: “We will defend our position vigorously.” He also warned Mr Gilberthorpe about “mischievous allegations”.