ONE of Scotland’s most prominent chartered accountants has been struck off after breaching money-laundering rules in the multi-million-pound takeover of the Glasgow bakers Mortons Rolls.

John Devlin was found guilty of both misconduct and incompetence by his profession’s watchdog, the Institute of Chartered Accountants Scotland (ICAS), after a complaint from Police Scotland.

ICAS ruled the 53-year-old had been responsible for “multiple instances of ethical breaches and defective audit work”, excluded him from its membership and ordered him to pay the £8,000 costs of his own investigation.

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Their landmark findings come at the end of a remarkable decade-long saga for Mortons, which The Herald can reveal is now largely and ultimately owned by Mr Devlin.

But the ICAS action – on the basis of a police tip-off – also underlines historic new levels of co-operation between Scottish law enforcement and the watchdogs for the country’s white-collar professions.

A Police Scotland spokesman said: “After a complaint to the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Scotland from Police Scotland one of its members was found guilty of professional misconduct and professional incompetence and excluded from membership of the institute as a consequence.”

The ICAS decision to strike off Mr Devlin comes five years after the old Strathclyde Police raided Mortons Rolls’s Glasgow factory in 2012. 

Mr Devlin, a former senior partner at respected book-keeping firm Haines Watt, had previously been named as one of five suspects facing allegations of criminality following those raids. 

Other suspects were then Mortons shareholder John Aire, who was once cleared of a £750,000 cannabis deal; Morag Aire; gangland figure Eli Webb; and John McCullagh, who served 13 years for a 1982 shotgun killing of a market trader. Prosecutors, however, in 2014 decided to take no further action against the five. 

ICAS, in a disciplinary judgment against Mr Devlin published on its website this month, said it had received complaints about Mr Devlin in 2013 and 2014. It did not name Morton Rolls. But its findings relate to the famous Glasgow brand and its complex recent history.

The old Mortons, a family firm, had a turnover of £11.5 million in 2006 but debts forced it into liquidation and it was taken over in 2008 by new directors John Aire and James Timmins.

A new company, MAJT Ltd later renamed Morton’s Rolls Limited, bought the Mortons name and some of its assets, including its Glasgow base. Its directors were also John Aire, Morag Aire and Mr Timmins, though they have subsequently resigned. There then followed reports in 2009 of what newspapers called Glasgow’s “roll wars” with rival bakeries alleging intimation of their workers.

ICAS found Mr Devlin guilty on six counts relating to the saga. These included breaching his obligations under the Money Laundering Regulations 2007 and the ICAS code of Ethics section on “integrity” and “honesty” by providing misleading statements to a liquidator.” 

Mr Devlin, ICAS found, had provided income details to a mortgage broker for the owners of one of the Morton Rolls companies “when he knew, or ought to have known” that the figures were incorrect. ICAS’s disciplinary committee concluded: “With reference to the fundamental ethical principle of integrity, the committee determined that Mr Devlin had failed to be straightforward and honest in a professional relationship.” 

Morton’s Rolls Limited, which trades as Mortons Rolls, is now owned by a firm called Allerdyce Holdings Limited, named after the Drumchapel street where the factory is based.

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Last year it formally notified Companies House that Mr Devlin was now the “person of significant control” in the firm. He has more than 75 per cent of its shares. The firm turned over more than £10.8m last year – up six-fold from £1.6m – but made a profit of just £44,000, according to  accounts filed last month. 

Mr Devlin did not respond to requests for comment through Mortons Rolls. He left Haines Watts after a separate internal investigation.