Stockbroker Nicholas Levene used £32million Ponzi-scheme fraud to fund extravagant lifestyle


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The Independent Online

Even for a man with more than £300m to burn, stockbroker Nicholas Levene’s life was marked by years of staggering excess.

The gambling addict thought little of blowing £720,000 in a bet on a cricket match, and he hired the girl band The Saturdays for a London party. The one problem: the money wasn’t his.

Levene was today jailed for 13 years for running an elaborate Ponzi scheme which defrauded celebrities and wealthy investors to fund his lifestyle of high-performance cars, yachts, holidays that lasted for months, and properties in Britain and abroad.

Even his father, an electrician, said that he was addicted to “monster greed” with a lifestyle beyond comprehension.

That lifestyle was funded by £316m he had raked in from investors included Richard Caring, the owner of the Ivy and Le Caprice restaurants in London’s West End, and Sir Brian Souter and his sister Ann Gloag, the founders of the Stagecoach travel group.

Levene, a father-of-three, offered seemingly concrete investment deals in companies such as HSBC, Lloyds TSB, and the mining companies Xstrata and Rio Tinto. But he failed to invest money paid to him, shifting it between bank accounts in Jersey, Switzerland and Israel and paying it out to investors to keep them quiet, Southwark Crown Court, south London, was told.

Meanwhile, he spent massive amounts on school fees, spread betting and his insatiable taste for luxury. He lost £32m, but taking into account customers’ lost profits the total rose to more than £100m.

In 2009, as his web of lies got more and more complex, he appeared to forget which deals he had promised to set up for clients and had to ask them to confirm where their money was and how much they were expecting back.

Levene, nicknamed “Beano” because of his childhood love of the comic, had built up strong contacts from a spell as a successful City worker and had an estimated fortune of up to £20m in 2005.

Sir Brian and Mrs Gloag gave him £5m in 2009 to invest in Xstrata shares. But Levene spread the money around his various accounts and used it to repay various clients. The Stagecoach bosses later gave Levene a further £2.5m to invest. In August 2009 he went to see Ms Gloag to confess he had not invested the money but had spent it on spread betting.

Andrew Edis, QC, prosecuting, said: “He appeared at a loss to understand why Mrs Gloag was pursuing action against him and asked if it would make her feel better if he was put behind bars. He later confessed to Mr Souter to having gambling and personal problems.”

Levene admitted one count of false accounting, one of obtaining a money transfer by deception, and 12 counts of fraud.

The broker...and his victims

Nicholas Levene

Total losses: £32m

Richard Caring, Restaurateur

Invested: £10m

Sir Brian Souter, Founder of Stagecoach

Invested: £7.5m  (with sister Ann Gloag)