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Two-year sentence for Fussell

Simon Fussell, former chairman of Minty, the long-established furniture company, and his co-defendant Rudolph De Mendonca, a former London stockbroker, were both sent to prison for fraud yesterday following a prosecution brought by the Serious Fraud Office.

The duo were convicted last month of conspiracy to defraud Priest Marians Holdings, in a case brought following a report by DTI inspectors into Norton Group and associated companies. De Mendonca was also convicted of two offences of forgery.

Fussell received a two-year custodial sentence yesterday. De Mendonca was sentenced to nine-months imprisonment.

On passing sentence, Judge Hardy said: "You agreed together for your own ends to a greedy and deceitful scheme that required a high degree of sophisticated planning to carry out and disguise your tracks.

"The world of business depends largely on trust and when its is breached on this scale in regard to the affairs of then large public companies, the Courts are expected to make and example of those responsible."

Part of the investigation concentrated on the sale of Exide House, a large property in Shaftesbury Avenue, London. According to the SFO, the case centred on Fussell, a company director making a secret and dishonest profit from the sale.

The property was sold from Priest Marians Holdings, of which he was a shareholder, to Minty, of which he was both chairman and shareholder.

To disguise his profit, the sale was initially made a to a fictitious individual, "Katie Chalus," who was said to be of Iranian origin.

Neither Priest Marians nor Minty knew of his involvement.