By Jason Lewis

Last updated at 9:04 AM on 24th May 2009

John Wick

Pariah: Expenses mole John Wick is being disowned by business associates

The former SAS officer behind the disclosure of MPs' expenses claims has left a trail of bad debts from a succession of failed businesses, The Mail on Sunday has discovered.

Twice-married John Wick, who claims to be close friends with a number of Tory grandees whom he refuses to name, has said his decision to sell the sensational documents was motivated by a sense of public duty.

The 60-year-old has also said he wants to highlight MPs' 'ongoing abuse of taxpayers' money' - even though his own ventures have left thousands of pounds in unpaid tax.

His money problems suggest he badly needed the reputed £100,000 he was paid for the Commons expense claims, which were originally touted to newspapers - not including The Mail on Sunday - for up to £350,000.

Our investigation has revealed that:

  • Mr Wick has left a string of 16 collapsed businesses behind him, with debts totalling more than £7million.
  • His failed business ventures have left former military comrades tens of thousands of pounds out of pocket.

A former Metropolitan Police Commissioner who briefly served on the board of one of Mr Wick's companies has distanced himself from the businessman, calling him a 'swashbuckling sort of a man' whom he did not trust.

The debts Mr Wick left include a string of unpaid bills, such as £34.56 from his milkman, £195.61 for a water cooler - and £35 from the Shangri-La guest house in Whitley Bay.

But Mr Wick has a reputation for 'phoenixing' - a term used when businesses collapse and then start up again under a new name within weeks.

He set up his current firm, ISSL, a small City-based private security business, shortly after he was discharged from an IVA, a legal device designed to stave off bankruptcy, in June 2007.

The IVA - individual voluntary arrangement - meant he had been able to continue in business while paying his creditors a proportion of his debts over a five-year period.

Mr Wick spent last week trying to reassure business contacts that his role as the key mole behind the release of MPs' expenses, as disclosed by The Mail on Sunday, would not damage their commercial activities.

ISSL is involved in insuring against kidnap and ransom and in providing cover for ship owners facing the threat of piracy.

Mr Wicks, a former SAS Major, told one contact, a publicity-shy insurance broker at Lloyd's of London, that the expenses affair would 'blow over soon'.

A succession of Mr Wick's firms have built up large debts before being forced into liquidation or referred to the official receiver, and then reopened under a slightly different name, often using the same premises and the same telephone numbers.