Financial Disasters Of Our Time

WHENEVER YOU hear people talk about "Eighties' excesses", they usually have an image in mind of sharp-suited salesmen guzzling champagne, chomping on fat Cuban cigars, with a posh car in the garage of their luxury town house.

Roger Levitt fitted that stereotype beautifully. Levitt was a super-salesman specialising in insurance and investment products. He smoked cigars flown in from Cuba, travelled in a chauffeur-driven Bentley and lived in a multi- million pound house in North London.

Emerging from a humble background in the East End of London, Levitt became an insurance salesman and, in 1977, he set up a business called Roger Levitt Pension Consultants. In 10 years, Levitt had built it into the largest independent financial advice firm in Britain.

Levitt's high-society clients included Frederick Forsyth, the Day of the Jackal novelist, while attracting Sebastian Coe, former Olympic gold medallist and then a Tory MP, and Adam Faith, the singer and actor, to work for him. He also promoted Lennox Lewis, the boxing champion.

By late 1989, everything looked hunky-dory for Levitt, on the surface at least. Yet, as a subsequent court hearing was told, many millions of pounds, handed to Levitt for investment purposes, were allegedly being used to prop up an rotten core at the centre of his business. More than pounds 22m was used in this way.

By 1990, the financial watchdog Fimbra sent its own investigation team to inspect the firm. Liquidators who moved in found a company in debt to the tune of pounds 34m.

Levitt was arrested shortly afterwards and originally faced dozens of fraud-related charges with a potential maximum jail sentence of 10 years. He denied them all. When his trial opened in November 1993, following a lengthy investigation masterminded by the Serious Fraud Office (SFO), it was expected to last up to eight months.

Instead, within a day or so, it was suddenly announced that Levitt would after all be pleading guilty to one count of "misleading" Fimbra. In return, the SFO's prosecutor, Michael Cocks QC, announced that other outstanding charges would not after all be pursued. Levitt was sentenced to 180 hours' community service.

Amid the uproar that followed, the SFO denied doing any deal with Levitt. Two years later, the truth came out: faced with Levitt's obstinate refusal to plead guilty to any but the smallest charges, a junior counsel for the Crown met Levitt's barrister in a Southwark Crown Court lavatory and raised the subject of a deal. Three weeks later the deal was done and dusted, with both sides informing the judge of the agreement they had reached.

Despite winning his freedom, Levitt has been unable to work in the UK since. He is now in the US, where he is said to be involved in boxing promotions.

Most of his victims received compensation, although the maximum of pounds 48,000 available under the Investors Compensation Scheme meant that some, like Mr Forsyth, were left massively out of pocket. Still, if he is short of a subject for a book, there is one story of Eighties' greed that springs instantly to mind.

Nic Cicutti

News
peoplePair enliven the Emirates bore-draw
Arts and Entertainment
tvPoldark episode 8, review
News
Britain's opposition Labour Party leader Ed Miliband (R) and Boris Johnson, mayor of London, talk on the Andrew Marr show in London April 26
General electionAndrew Marr forced to intervene as Boris and Miliband clash on TV
News
news
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistant - Accounts Payable - St. Albans

    £26000 - £28000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistan...

    Ashdown Group: Treasury Assistant - Accounts Assistant - London, Old Street

    £24000 - £26000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...

    Recruitment Genius: Installation and Service / Security Engineer

    £22000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is part of a Group...

    Recruitment Genius: Service Charge Accounts Assistant

    £16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you a a young, dynamic pers...

    Day In a Page

    General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

    Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

    The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
    Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

    Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

    Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
    Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

    Marginal Streets project documents voters

    Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
    Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

    The real-life kingdom of Westeros

    Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
    How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

    How to survive a Twitter mauling

    Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
    Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

    At dawn, the young remember the young

    A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
    Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

    Follow the money as never before

    Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
    Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

    Samuel West interview

    The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
    General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

    Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

    Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
    Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

    Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

    The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence
    Public relations as 'art'? Surely not

    Confessions of a former PR man

    The 'art' of public relations is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for DJ Taylor
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef succumbs to his sugar cravings with super-luxurious sweet treats

    Bill Granger's luxurious sweet treats

    Our chef loves to stop for 30 minutes to catch up on the day's gossip, while nibbling on something sweet
    London Marathon 2015: Paula Radcliffe and the mother of all goodbyes

    The mother of all goodbyes

    Paula Radcliffe's farewell to the London Marathon will be a family affair
    Everton vs Manchester United: Steven Naismith demands 'better' if Toffees are to upset the odds against United

    Steven Naismith: 'We know we must do better'

    The Everton forward explains the reasons behind club's decline this season
    Arsenal vs Chelsea: Praise to Arsene Wenger for having the courage of his convictions

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    Praise to Wenger for having the courage of his convictions