THE finance director of Duncan Bannatyne's business empire has been arrested as part of an investigation into an alleged multi-million pound fraud.
Christopher Paul Watson was arrested after the TV Dragon’s company alerted detectives to what the business, which is headquartered in Darlington, described as a 'serious financial matter'.
Mr Watson, 45, was arrested on suspicion of fraud by abuse of position and bailed pending further inquiries.
Although Companies House lists Mr Watson among the board members, the Bannatyne Group has not commented on his current employment status.
A spokesman for Mr Bannatyne's company said the investigation does not affect the day-to-day operation of the business.
The company thanked police for their professionalism during the investigation so far.
A spokesman for Durham Police said: "We can confirm a 45-year-old man was arrested on suspicion of fraud by abuse of position.
“The investigation involves an alleged multi-million pound fraud on a Darlington-based business.
“The man has been bailed pending further inquiries.”
In a statement, the spokesman for Mr Bannatyne's company added: "The police are investigating a serious financial matter reported to them by the Bannatyne Group.
"We are grateful for their thoroughness and professionalism.
"We have no comment to make except to say that it does not affect the current operation of our successful business."
The Northern Echo has been unsuccessful in attempts to contact Mr Watson for comment.
Companies House lists father-of-three Mr Watson as both secretary and a director of Bannatyne Fitness Limited, positions it says he was appointed to in February 2008 and December 2012 respectively
In his 2013 book Riding The Storm, Mr Bannatyne refers to Mr Watson as his finance director and a member of his 'senior team'.
Charting the breakdown of his marriage to second wife Joanne and turbulent times for his business interests, the book lists a small group of people as having helped Mr Bannatyne through what he described as 'the most tumultuous two years of my life'.
Mr Watson is among those named in that list.
The book tells how Mr Watson helped the entrepreneur assess his options when it came to the divorce settlement.
In another chapter, Mr Bannatyne recounted a credit crunch-induced brush with financial trouble that forced his business into ‘survival mode’.
He says Mr Watson was ‘fantastic’ in helping the company find its way out of ‘a tight spot’.
Later in the book, Mr Bannatyne talks about the trust that he placed in his board of directors.
Mr Bannatyne collaborated on the books with the ghostwriter Jo Monroe, a former Daily Mirror showbusiness reporter