The life and devious times of Lib Dems' serial fraudster

After more than three years, life on the run comes to an end for party's biggest – and most criminal – donor

The convicted fraudster who conned millions from wealthy individuals and used some of it to become the biggest ever donor to the Liberal Democrats has been arrested in the Dominican Republic after three years on the run. Although the country has no extradition treaty with Britain, City of London Police and the Foreign Office will be keen to bring him back to London to begin serving the seven-year sentence he was given for fraud in 2008.

It would bring to an end, for the time being at least, the criminal activities of Michael Brown, alias Michael Campbell-Brown, alias Darren Patrick Nally. And efforts by his victims to reclaim some of the £2.4m of their money, which Brown gave to the then Lib Dem leader Charles Kennedy and his party, could resume. Mr Kennedy, like them, was beguiled by Brown's tales of public schools and royal connections, combined with his readiness to splash what appeared to be a legitimately gotten fortune. In reality, he was a practised hoodwinker who fleeced victims on three continents while running a variant of a Bernie Madoff-style pyramid investment scam.

Born in 1966 in Dumbarton, Brown is the son of a distillery employee. He would later tell clients that his father was an aristocrat, he had been educated at Gordonstoun, Prince Charles's old school, and had a degree in management. In reality, he went to humbler academies and has a City & Guilds in catering. He then ran businesses in music promotion and modelling, both of which failed.

Little is known of the next few years, but it has been reported that he made substantial sums dealing in property. When he turned up with his huge donation to the Lib Dems in 2005, he was described as a reclusive businessman based in Majorca. Despite the fact that he was not a registered UK voter, the party accepted his cash, which was given through a London-based company which had never traded in the UK and had no employees. Charles Kennedy had trips in Brown's private jet, just one of the many trappings of Brown's multimillion-pound lifestyle. He also owned a substantial villa, had a fleet of luxury cars and a £400,000 yacht.

The first indication that Brown was not the full shilling came later in that election year, when his bankers, HSBC, began investigating his affairs, which led to Spanish and British police arresting him in April 2006 for alleged fraud. He later pleaded guilty to perjury and obtaining a passport by deception and was jailed for two years. Having served his time, in 2008 he was charged again, bailed, but skipped the country. He was tried and convicted in his absence on charges of defrauding clients including Martin Edwards, former Manchester United chief executive, by claiming to invest their money, while in fact blowing it on an extravagant lifestyle, and keeping the plates spinning of his supposed bond dealing business.

While all this was going on, Brown was establishing himself as a wealthy player in the Caribbean, setting up companies in the Bahamas, and latterly living in a neo-colonial era villa on an exclusive estate in the Dominican Republic. He drove a gold Porsche Cayenne, and kept a dog, named Charles after the Lib Dems' former leader. Despite being convicted by a British court, he is believed to have been in Britain several times in the past few years, aided both by his false passport, growing a beard, and allowing his hair, formerly dyed blond, to revert to grey.

Where he appears to have come unstuck is with an oil deal done with a local businessman, where, true to form, he did not make the promised payments. The upshot was that in 2011 he was sent to prison for three months and had his bank accounts frozen by the Dominican authorities. Officials there say they were under the impression his name was Nally, but now know different. It is expected that he will be deported for entering their country on false papers, and Britain is hoping the plane he is put on is one that is bound for London.

Political opponents have been relishing the prospect of Brown's return to Britain. Michael Dugher MP, Labour's shadow Cabinet Office minister, said: "The Lib Dems took a massive donation from this man – they should pay the money back out of decency. Michael Brown's victims want their money back, and the Lib Dems have £2.4m of it." A Lib Dem spokesman said: "The Electoral Commission inquiry in 2009 found that the party accepted the donation in good faith, and were in no way at fault."

Additional reporting by Anna Dubuis

News
exclusivePunk icon Viv Albertine on Sid Vicious, complacent white men, and why free love led to rape
News
A 1930 image of the Karl Albrecht Spiritousen and Lebensmittel shop, Essen. The shop was opened by Karl and Theo Albrecht’s mother; the brothers later founded Aldi
people
Arts and Entertainment
booksThe best children's books for this summer
Sport
Colombia's James Rodriguez celebrates one of his goals during the FIFA World Cup 2014 round of 16 match between Colombia and Uruguay at the Estadio do Maracana in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
sportColombian World Cup star completes £63m move to Spain
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
News
news
News
i100
News
people
Sport
Antoine Griezmann has started two of France’s four games so far
sport
Life and Style
techYahoo Japan launches service to delete your files and email your relatives when you die
Life and Style
Child's play: letting young people roam outdoors directly contradicts the current climate
lifeHow much independence should children have?
Arts and Entertainment
Tycoons' text: Warren Buffett and Bill Gates both cite John Brookes' 'Business Adventures' as their favourite book
booksFind out why America's richest men are reading John Brookes
News
i100
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Sustainability Manager

Competitive: The Green Recruitment Company: Job Title: Scheme Manager (BREEAM)...

Graduate Sustainability Professional

Flexible, depending on experience: The Green Recruitment Company: Job Title: T...

Programme Director - Conduct Risk - London

£850 - £950 per day: Orgtel: Programme Director - Conduct Risk - Banking - £85...

Project Coordinator/Order Entry, SC Clear

£100 - £110 per day: Orgtel: Project Coordinator/Order Entry Hampshire

Day In a Page

Some are reformed drug addicts. Some are single mums. All are on benefits. But now these so-called 'scroungers’ are fighting back

The 'scroungers’ fight back

The welfare claimants battling to alter stereotypes
Amazing video shows Nasa 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action

Fireballs in space

Amazing video shows Nasa's 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action
A Bible for billionaires

A Bible for billionaires

Find out why America's richest men are reading John Brookes
Paranoid parenting is on the rise - and our children are suffering because of it

Paranoid parenting is on the rise

And our children are suffering because of it
For sale: Island where the Magna Carta was sealed

Magna Carta Island goes on sale

Yours for a cool £4m
Phone hacking scandal special report: The slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

The hacker's tale: the slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

Glenn Mulcaire was jailed for six months for intercepting phone messages. James Hanning tells his story in a new book. This is an extract
We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

Child abusers are not all the same, yet the idea of treating them differently in relation to the severity of their crimes has somehow become controversial
The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

For instance, did Isis kill the Israeli teenagers to trigger a war, asks Patrick Cockburn
Alistair Carmichael: 'The UK as a whole is greater than the sum of its parts'

Alistair Carmichael: 'The UK as a whole is greater than the sum of its parts'

Meet the man who doesn't want to go down in history as the country's last Scottish Secretary
Legoland Windsor's master model-makers reveal the tricks of their trade (including how to stop the kids wrecking your Eiffel Tower)

Meet the people who play with Lego for a living

They are the master builders: Lego's crack team of model-makers, who have just glued down the last of 650,000 bricks as they recreate Paris in Windsor. Susie Mesure goes behind the scenes
The 20 best days out for the summer holidays: From Spitfires to summer ferry sailings

20 best days out for the summer holidays

From summer ferry sailings in Tyne and Wear and adventure days at Bear Grylls Survival Academy to Spitfires at the Imperial War Museum Duxford and bog-snorkelling at the World Alternative Games...
Open-air theatres: If all the world is a stage, then everyone gets in on the act

All the wood’s a stage

Open-air productions are the cue for better box-office receipts, new audiences, more interesting artistic challenges – and a picnic
Rand Paul is a Republican with an eye on the world

Rupert Cornwell: A Republican with an eye on the world

Rand Paul is laying out his presidential stall by taking on his party's disastrous record on foreign policy
Self-preservation society: Pickles are moving from the side of your plate to become the star dish

Self-preservation society

Pickles are moving from the side of your plate to become the star dish
Generation gap opens a career sinkhole

Britons live ever longer, but still society persists in glorifying youth

We are living longer but considered 'past it' younger, the reshuffle suggests. There may be trouble ahead, says DJ Taylor