Banker 'lent PA £40,000 to help leave her husband'

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A city secretary accused of stealing £4.5m from her bosses was given a £40,000 interest-free loan by a trusting banker to enable her to leave her "unfaithful" husband, a court was told yesterday.

Jennifer Moses, a former partner at the investment bank Goldman Sachs, described how she had implicitly trusted her former personal assistant Joyti De-Laurey.

Ms Moses gave her gifts, including £5,000 in cash and £800 worth of jewellery, and offered to pay to fly her from London to New York for private cancer treatment, Southwark Crown Court was told. At the same time, Mrs De-Laurey was allegedly siphoning off more than £1m from investment accounts held by Ms Moses and her husband, Ron Beller.

The money was allegedly used by the defendant to fund extravagant shopping sprees, luxury cars, jewellery and a £750,000 villa in Cyprus where she planned to start a new life.

Mrs De-Laurey is accused of plundering the bank accounts of three executives at the London offices of Goldman Sachs - Ms Moses, Mr Beller and Scott Mead.

Mrs De-Laurey, 35, of North Cheam, Surrey, denies 21 charges during a two-year period, including claims that she obtained money involving up to £2.5m, as well as using "false instruments" in the form of cheques. Her husband, Anthony, a 50-year-old former chauffeur, and her mother, Devi Schahhou, 67, of Hampstead, north London, pleaded not guilty to allegations that they helped launder the cash.

The court was told how Ms Moses found the defendant "better than most" secretariesafter hiring her as a temporary personal assistant in 1998. She backed Mrs De-Laurey's bid to become a full-time member of staff and later successfully argued for her annual bonus to be increased. Ms Moses told the court that she became well acquainted with her secretary. In November 2000 Mrs De-Laurey said her husband was "having an affair", she told the court.

"She was distraught and needed to buy a home for herself and her son," said Ms Moses, who has left the firm to concentrate on her "charitable interests". "I offered to help her and she told me she needed £40,000 ... I insisted she have it as an interest-free loan."

A few months later, Mrs De-Laurey allegedly told her that she was suffering from a recurrence of cancer. Ms Moses offered to pay for private treatment in New York.

Ms Moses said that although Mrs De-Laurey helped with the payment of bills and travel arrangements, she had never been authorised to sign cheques. Ms Moses said the last cheque in the series was dated 28 August 2001, after she had left the investment bank and was in the US. "This is her handwriting and her signature," she insisted.

Jeremy Dean QC, for the defence, said Ms Moses had been angry when Mrs De-Laurey refused to leave Goldman Sachs to work for her.

Ms Moses denied suggestions made by Mr Dean that she had given the defendant a responsibility to ensure her cheque accounts were kept "topped up" by transfers from investment accounts to allow day-to-day bills to be paid.

The trial continues.