Fraudsters jailed for £12m 'trick'


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The Independent Online

Three men involved in an elaborate confidence trick in which a Christian philanthropist lost £12 million have been jailed.

The scam convinced businessman Graham Dacre to part with a slice of his fortune, promising huge profits from a high-yield investment fund, Norwich Crown Court heard.

A German church also lost 7 million euro (£5.6 million) in a linked fraud.

None of the money has been recovered.

Sentencing the men, Judge Nicholas Coleman said: "This was essentially a giant confidence trick which netted enormous sums of money. This was a calculated and audacious fraud."

Mr Dacre was persuaded to handover £11.9 million, hoping to use the profits to fund charitable schemes. But once he had transferred the funds to an offshore account, the money disappeared, prosecutor Mark Fenhalls told the trial.

The men constructed an air of "respectability and Christian charity" to win their victims over, he said.

Following a three-month trial and more than the week of jury deliberations, Alan Hunt 65, of The Avenue in Poole, Dorset, was found guilty of conspiracy to defraud Mr Dacre and the New Apostolic Church in Dortmund.

He was cleared of one charge of money laundering.

John Dodd, mitigating on his behalf, said Hunt was the "public face" of the scheme but not a "criminal mastermind".

Arthur Ford-Batey, 62, of Miles McInnes Court, Carlisle, was found guilty of conspiracy to defraud Mr Dacre. He was cleared of defrauding the Dortmund church and laundering money.

His barrister, Adrian Keeling, said he was only aware of the fraud at a late stage and played no part in "constructing" it.

Ian Yorkshire, 62, of Clarendon Villas, Brighton, was found guilty of conspiracy to launder criminal property relating to the two frauds. He was cleared of one count of fraud.

Harry Bentley, mitigating, said Yorkshire has terminal cancer.

He said: "He, in effect, was simply allowing the money to flow through his account."

The judge ordered that Hunt serve a total of nine years, Ford-Batey must serve six years and Yorkshire 11 years.

David "Fraser" Robert, 62, of Montpelier Road, Brighton, and Kevin Brennan, 55, of Kirkburn, Driffield, were cleared of fraud and money-laundering charges.

Brennan's brother, Martin, 40, of Bracken Road, Stockton-on-Tees, was found not guilty of laundering Mr Dacre's money.

The men told the court they believed they were involved in a legitimate enterprise and were not aware of any wrongdoing by the scheme's financial controller who was not involved in this trial.

Outside court, Mr Dacre said: "My wife and I are relieved this long-running case is now finally over. We are grateful to Norfolk Police, the Crown Prosecution Service and all those who have supported us over many months.

"Of course, I would like to get some of the money back but only time will tell."

Frank Schuldt, from the Dortmund church, said members of the congregation donated money for projects to help elderly people and for foreign aid.

He said: "They have been very upset by this."