Trio guilty of £12m con

 

Three men have been found guilty of conning a Christian philanthropist out of £12 million.

The men convinced businessman Graham Dacre into parting with a slice of his fortune with promises of huge profits from a high yield investment fund, Norwich Crown Court heard.

Mr Dacre was persuaded to hand over £11.9 million, hoping to use the profits for charitable schemes.

But once he had transferred the funds into an offshore account, the money disappeared, prosecutor Mark Fenhalls said.

Mr Fenhalls said the men manufactured an "air of respectability" and "Christian charity" to trick their victims.

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

The force added that Arthur Ford-Batey, 62, of Miles McInnes Court, Carlisle, was found guilty of conspiracy to defraud Mr Dacre.

And Ian Yorkshire, 62, of Clarendon Villas, Brighton, was found guilty of conspiracy to launder criminal property relating to the two frauds.

David "Fraser" Roberts, 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.

During the trial, 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.

As well as Mr Dacre, victims included Utah commodities dealer Randall Schreiber, who parted with 900,000 US dollars (£570,000), and the New Apostolic Church in Dortmund, Germany, which lost 15 million euro (£12.5 million).

Investigating officer Detective Constable Chris Gay said: "Although the amounts lost by the victims in this matter were substantial, and the way in which they were convinced to part with their funds was complex, it was essentially a simple confidence trick, and the principal remains that if an investment proposal looks too good to be true then it almost certainly is."

Mr Dacre is originally from Kent but has lived in Norfolk for 40 years.

He sold the Lind Automotive Group for £108 million in 2006 to fund Christian projects.

His enterprises include the Open Youth Trust, a charity which aims to help young people.

He ranked at number 793 in the Sunday Times Rich List in 2008 and is said to be worth £70 million.

Ford-Batey was cleared of defrauding the Dortmund church and laundering the money.

Yorkshire was cleared of fraud.

The men will be sentenced tomorrow.

PA