Lawyer jailed over £6m airline scam

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The Independent Online

A high-flying City lawyer who conned millions of pounds from her bank bosses to help a friend's ailing airline has been jailed for five years.

Kate Johns, 39, deputy head of Tokyo Mitsubishi's legal department, repeatedly cajoled colleagues into ignoring procedure and approving letters of credit totalling more than £6m. Sentencing her at Southwark Crown Court in London, Judge John Price said: "The essence of the fraud was that you used your position to persuade, cajole and, I'm afraid, bully those lower down the chain of command to authorise the loan."

The massive transfers ended up in the coffers of the struggling Indonesian carrier Air Efata, which had only three planes, the court heard. In return, the £150,000-a-year lawyer received pay-offs totalling £1.95m, more than £1.1m of which was promptly used to clear the mortgage on her luxury townhouse. She also splashed out £40,000 of her "ill-gotten gains" on a pair of earrings to go with the £35,000 ring the airline chief Frank Taira-Supit had bought her. Investigators also found she had received another £1.05m from him before the scam, though she claimed it was for legal advice. But her massive betrayal of trust failed to rescue the airline and it was grounded.

Taira-Supit, a 58-year-old Harvard law graduate, later hanged himself. Johns, of Camden Town, north London, claimed that, far from being a criminal, she had simply been doing the bidding of one of her bosses to protect the bank's interests. But the jury convicted her of 12 offences committed between May and October 2006.