Director stole £3m to pay for his love of fast cars

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The Independent Online

A company director indulged in a dream life of fabulous wealth and fast cars funded by massive fraud, a court was told yesterday.

A company director indulged in a dream life of fabulous wealth and fast cars funded by massive fraud, a court was told yesterday.

James Munroe, the director of UK accounting for the publishing group McGraw-Hill, embezzled almost £3m from his employer over four years.

He set up a series of ghost companies for which he billed McGraw-Hill for services rendered, but used the money to buy cars including Ferraris and Aston Martins - even a McLaren F1 racing car costing £600,000, which he then entered in the GT championship.

Munroe, from Wokingham, Berkshire, also provided Concorde trips and Ducati motorbikes for his motor racing crew. He soon became a familiar face in the racing world and when interviewed on several television programmes, boasted that he had made his money through selling a multi-media company to McGraw-Hill.

But the glamorous world of fast cars was to be his downfall, Sally Howells, for the proseuction, told Reading Crown Court.

After bosses at McGraw-Hill questioned two unauthorised payments, an internal audit was ordered, which revealed that 15 more unauthorised transactions had been made by Munroe, ranging from £46,000 to £555,000.

Ms Howells told how his bosses also became suspicious over the amount of sick leave he was having. He would give a long list of excuses, including one tale that he suffered from a chronic kidney problem. But his deception was discovered when he said his son had been taken ill and admitted to Great Ormond Street Hospital.

When the company tried to send flowers to the hospital, staff there said they held no record of the boy. A check on a racing website revealed that Munroe had been with his team that weekend.

Munroe admitted 17 counts of transfer by deception and three of procuring the execution of a valuable security. He was jailed for five years.

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