Investment manager stole pounds 645,000 from his clients: Further charges involving almost pounds 1m ordered to remain on file

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The Independent Online
AN INVESTMENT manager used his connections with Mount Charlotte Investments, one of Britain's largest hotel groups, to steal hundreds of thousands of pounds from investors in an attempt to prop up his ailing investment firm.

Kenneth Renton, 58, yesterday admitted 18 charges of theft and obtaining property by deception, involving a total of pounds 645,000. He denied a further 20 charges of stealing a total of almost pounds 1m. These were ordered to lie on the file.

Renton's victims included stockbrokers and a banker, as well as his friends and neighbours from Wentworth, Virginia Water, in Surrey. Those who lost money include Sir Edward Goschen, formerly a stockbroker with Scrimgeour Vickers, and Harbourne Stephen, a director of the Telegraph newspaper group.

Renton ran a small firm called Wentworth Investment Management from offices in the City of London. For many years, he was also a non-executive director of Mount Charlotte, having backed the company when it was in financial difficulties in the 1970s. He left Mount Charlotte's board after it was taken over by Brierley Investments in late 1990.

Stephen Waller, for the prosecution, told the Inner London Crown Court how in 1991 Renton had persuaded investors to give him money to invest in a 'non-existent issue' of Mount Charlotte shares, claiming that the company was planning to return to the stock market. Renton told investors this would be a profitable, 'no-risk' investment. To one friend, a Canadian stockbroker called Botho von Bose, Renton claimed that his clients included Sean Connery.

Renton used the money to pay off bank overdrafts. The police found no evidence of funds salted away. Renton told police that he kept going because of 'stupid Scottish pride. I did not want to be seen to lose.'

Wentworth's financial difficulties finally overwhelmed Renton in April 1992, by which time investors were clamouring for their money. He went on the run for a few days, and attempted suicide. He then surrendered to the police, Mr Waller said.

Roy Amlot QC, for the defence, said his client had pleaded guilty to charges 'where, because of the timing, he appreciated there was little chance of repaying the investment. That does not apply to the earlier investments (the subject of other charges) where he took them with the hope that they would be repaid without difficulty.'

Renton was bailed for sentencing on 3 December.