Fifteen employees from a property insurance arm of Erinaceous have left to set up their own firm

The mass departure is from Farr, a specialist insurance broker for housing associations, which was acquired by AIM-listed Erinaceous as part of its takeover of Hercules Property Services in October 2004.

Farr is in the process of being merged with Hanover Park Commercial, another property insurance arm within the Erinaceous group.

A spokesman said 30 employees remained in the merged entity and that the Erinaceous group was expanding rapidly. ‘A process of integration is going on,’ he added.

Property insurance accounts for 15% of the group’s turnover and made an operating profit of £11.3m in the year to 31 December 2005.

Last week the Serious Fraud Office confirmed that it had raided 17 properties as part of an investigation into an alleged valuation fraud.

An employee at Erinaceous subsidiary Dunlop Haywards carried out the valuations on many of the properties under investigation. In March, Dunlop Haywards’ head of valuation, Ian McGarry, was arrested and released on bail without charge.

Erinaceous’s chief executive Neil Bellis could not be reached for comment.