Revealed: How Britain's most prolific fraudster stole £115m

'Cold-hearted' conman created illusion of success to dupe sport stars and celebrities

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The Independent Online

The ringleader of Britain's biggest-ever "Ponzi" scam conned a host of wealthy businessmen, sports stars and celebrities out of £115m, it can be revealed.

Kautilya Nandan Pruthi operated "a spider's web of corruption" that stretched around the world as he won the trust of hundreds of victims by promising massive returns on investments. In just over three years the flamboyant fraudster made a total of £38m, which he spent on multi-million pound homes, Ferraris and private jets.

The former cricketer Darren Gough and the actor Jerome Flynn – one half of the pop duo Robson and Jerome – were among 800 people who fell victim to the man police described as Britain's most prolific fraudster. "Pruthi used fast cars, helicopters and luxury houses to create an illusion of success and legitimacy," said Detective Superintendent Bob Wishart. "In reality he was a cold-hearted criminal driven by greed."

Parents of disabled children and a host of undisclosed well-known names also fell victim to the scam. The full details of the staggering fraud were made public yesterday after the conclusion of the trial of two of Pruthi's associates.

John Anderson and Kenneth Peacock were found guilty of unauthorised regulated activity but cleared yesterday of fraud and recklessly making a misleading, false or deceptive promise. Before the trial, Indian-born Pruthi pleaded guilty at Southwark Crown Court in London to four counts of obtaining money transfers by deception, one count of participating in a fraudulent business, one count of unauthorised regulated activity and one count of converting and removing criminal property.

He was arrested with his two associates in May 2009 after City of London police launched a nationwide investigation into Ponzi fraud. Named after the Italian fraudster Charles Ponzi, the scam involves paying investors with funds contributed by new investors. Pruthi, 41, had already spent much of the cash on renting properties in central London, along with a mansion in Ascot. Detective Superintendent Benjamin Flannaghan, who led the inquiry, said the divorced father-of-one was a "flashy operator".

Pruthi began taking deposits from investors around the world in 2005, offering a headline return rate of 156 per cent per year on investments. Investors from Britain, Australia, Singapore, Hong Kong, Thailand and Spain were eventually lured into parting with their cash.

Pruthi, of Wandsworth, south-west London; Anderson, 46, and Peacock, 43, were all made bankrupt after their arrests. Judge Michael Gledhill QC, who sentences the three tomorrow, has warned Pruthi a jail term is "inevitable".