'Fake loans' trial opens

THE Serious Fraud Office is set to launch another multi-million pound fraud trial on Monday, following an investigation into an international scam involving fake loans and forged securities.

German national Bernhard Kreuter will appear in Torquay magistrates court charged with fraud through his company, Associated Financial Management Limited.

Mr Kreuter's arrest follows the discovery of a ring of alleged "advance fee" fraudsters in the south-west coast resort in September, following a joint operation by the SFO, Devon and Cornwall Police, Interpol and the FBI.

Three charged already in that case, German businessmen Gerhard Martens and Peter Tuegel, and Italian Saia Sebastiano, will also appear in court on Monday in a further remand hearing.

Police seized hundreds of documents identifying a web of companies that allegedly conned investors out of millions of pounds by paying up-front fees for loans that never materialised.

Sophisticated advance fee fraud has plagued financial centres in recent years. Often the scam takes the form of so-called "prime bank notes", worthless securities in a non-existent secret inter-bank market that promise fantastic returns.

The fraudster pockets the down-payment, or even the whole investment if the victim is greedy or gullible enough.

In Martens' case documents included a bond purporting to be worth $10 trillion. He is accused of swindling one German woman out of $622,500 after promising a $450m loan.