SFO triumphs as Michael Ward gets two-year jail term

The Serious Fraud Office gained an unprecedented victory yesterday, securing custodial sentences in the court of appeal for a pair of convicted fraudsters who two years ago had escaped with "too lenient" fines and community service for their part in an illegal share support conspiracy.

It will be the second spell in jail in under two years for Michael Ward, former chief executive of Dublin-quoted European Leisure, the company whose shares he conspired to ramp during a successful bid for rival Midsummer Leisure in 1991. He was jailed in September 1995 for one year on a related charge of making false and misleading statements during the SFO's investigation of the share support operation.

Michael Ward, 49, the former Morgan Grenfell and Warburgs banker who lives in Mayfair's plush Chester Square, was sentenced yesterday to two years in jail while his former deputy chairman, Jeremy Howarth, received a 20-month sentence.

Two years ago the two escaped with fines of pounds 63,000 and pounds 151,000 respectively and 220 hours of community service. A third co-defendant, George Hendry, who received a conditional discharge in 1995, was given a 12-month sentence, suspended for two years, on the grounds of ill-health.

The original fraud revolved around Mr Ward's attempts artificially to inflate the value of European Leisure's shares to ensure the success of a bid for Midsummer Leisure. In its case, the SFO painted a picture of an elaborate share-support scheme which involved a Jersey taxi-driver, a Scottish contracting firm and a company controlled by an Egyptian business associate of Ward.

After the fraud came to light, and knowing that he would be interviewed by the SFO, Ward recruited an associate, Brook Anderson, to give him a bogus receipt concerning the sale of furniture for pounds 89,000 to explain movements of cash through his accounts. The forgery of that document prompted the second case in late 1995 that led to his previous jail sentence.

Yesterday, Lord Justice McCowan, sitting with Mr Justice Jowitt and Mr Justice Hooper, ruled the original fraud sentences were "unduly lenient".

In addition to the jail sentences, Ward and Howarth were each banned from becoming company directors for seven and five years respectively.

Giving the decision, Lord Justice McCowan said, "We grant leave as we consider the sentences imposed were unduly lenient.

"The scheme was masterminded by Ward. The companies involved were international companies trading on the London Stock Exchange. The fraud involved careful planning and substantial dishonesty. An important element in sentencing must be the deterrent element.

"It is important that people carrying out something like this should know they face a real chance of going to prison."

The two were given 48 hours to put their affairs in order before starting their sentences.

Charismatic and eloquent, Ward enjoyed a brief period as the darling of the Irish Stock Exchange after in 1987 he acquired the Edenderry Shoe Company as a shell for his ambitions in the leisure sector. He built up a chain of nightclubs in Spain and Paris and he owned the famous Hippodrome in London.

Ward's nemesis, however, was the takeover in 1991 of Midsummer Leisure, a company then valued at pounds 87m. To secure control of Midsummer, Ward had to maintain the value of European Leisure's shares and to do that he masterminded illegal share purchases with a combined value of pounds 400,000, the SFO believed.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Life and Style
love + sex A new study has revealed the average size - but does that leave men outside the 'normal' range being thought of as 'abnormal'?
The Palace of Westminster is falling down, according to John Bercow
voices..says Matthew Norman
Steve Bruce and Gus Poyet clash
Arts and Entertainment
Jake and Dinos Chapman were motivated by revenge to make 'Bring me the Head of Franco Toselli! '
arts + ents Shapero Modern Gallery to show explicit Chapman Brothers film
Arts and Entertainment
Kurt Cobain performing for 'MTV Unplugged' in New York, shortly before his death
music Brett Morgen's 'Cobain: Montage of Heck' debunks many of the myths surrounding the enigmatic singer
Brendan Rodgers
football The Liverpool manager will be the first option after Pep Guardiola
Life and Style
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Christian Benteke of Aston Villa celebrates scoring the winner for Aston Villa
Arts and Entertainment
Myanna Buring, Julian Rhind-Tutt and Russell Tovey in 'Banished'
TV Jimmy McGovern tackles 18th-century crime and punishment
Arts and Entertainment
Paul Whitehouse as Herbert
arts + ents
Bill O'Reilly attends The Hollywood Reporter 35 Most Powerful People In Media Celebration at The Four Seasons Restaurant on April 16, 2014 in New York City
media It is the second time he and the channel have clarified statements
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - OTE £40,000

£15000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a great opportunity for...

Austen Lloyd: Law Costs HOD - Southampton

£50000 - £60000 per annum + Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: An outstanding new...

SThree: Recruitment Resourcer

£20000 - £21000 per annum + uncapped commission: SThree: As a graduate you are...

Ashdown Group: Junior Application Support Analyst - Fluent German Speaker

£25000 - £30000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: A global leader operating...

Day In a Page

Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot
Poldark star Heida Reed: 'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'

Poldark star Heida Reed

'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'
The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn