Essex pillow salesman Thomas Skinner has insisted he's a different person from the "young and naive" man who was convicted of handling stolen goods in 2011.

“I was young and naive and bought stock from a source I didn’t know.

"I wasn’t aware the stock was stolen and paid the consequences for the mistake I made.

"That is now well in my past, and I have had a string of successful companies since then," he told The Sun.

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When the publication contacted the BBC they said were aware of Thomas’ previous history as part of their contractual background checks and his conviction is now spent.

A spokesman for the BBC told the Mirror: "DBS checks are done for all The Apprentice candidates by the production company ahead of filming. "

A spent conviction is not disclosed under the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act.

"Spent convictions are designed to help people move on in life and not be excluded from opportunities to help further their careers."

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Thomas joins a very diverse lineup of The Apprentice candidates this series.

Fellow hopeful Lewis Ellis has been revealed as an online prankster and fooled his followers into believing he had ended up in Syria when on holiday in Ayia Napa.

The digital marketing project manager once went for a swim in the pool at Manchester’s Trafford Centre.

The opening episode of the 15th series of the BBC show airs next week where viewers will see candidates fly to South Africa for their first task.

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The business hopefuls will be set one of the most challenging tasks ever; to create, set up snd run bespoke tours on the outskirts of Cape Town.

This series is also quite literally bigger than ever as the first episode will run for an additional five minutes as the BBC push back the News at Ten to make way for the 64-minute series premiere.

The Apprentice begins on BBC One on Wednesday, October 2.

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