Cushnie pays £10m to fraud victims

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The Independent Online

Carlton Cushnie, the former chief executive of the Versailles Group who was jailed for fraud two years ago, has paid more than £10m to the courts - one of the highest criminal confiscations collected in the UK.

Mr Cushnie, who received a six-year prison sentence for his part in the £100m Versailles fraud in June 2004, paid in £10,140,732, mainly raised by the forced sale of his villa at St Tropez. The money will be paid out in compensation to the fraud's victims. Versailles was a trade finance house that lost more than £100m of investors' funds. It provided bridging loans to companies but did little genuine business and inflated its turnover using fake documents.

Before his fall, Mr Cushnie was a high-profile bus-inessman and a prominent Labour Party donor. Tony Blair is reputed to have introduced him to the then US President Bill Clinton in 1997, describing him as "one of England's leading black businessmen".

Versailles' finance director, Fred Clough, was also convictedand sentenced to six years in jail. On appeal, his sentence was cut by one year. He was banned from being a company director for 15 years, while Mr Cushnie was banned for 10 years.

Mr Cushniewas forced to sell the St Tropez villa after the SFO traced its ownership to a company in his name. Having twice been denied leave to appeal against his conviction, he is believed to be considering an appeal in the European Court of Human Rights.