Executives jailed for biggest timeshare swindle

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The Independent Online

Five British company executives who swindled 17,000 couples out of more than £31m in the world's largest timeshare fraud were jailed yesterday for between 14 and 18 months.

Five British company executives who swindled 17,000 couples out of more than £31m in the world's largest timeshare fraud were jailed yesterday for between 14 and 18 months.

The men acted as a ruthless and sophisticated team of "glib talking" salesmen who promised huge profits and treated their victims, who were mostly British holidaymakers, like fools, the Old Bailey was told. The fraud, which involved 13 resorts, was operated from Tenerife and Brentwood, Essex.

Simon Stevens, 36, from Kent, Malcolm Watsford-Wallace, 53, from Berkshire, Michael Harbison, 35, from Middlesex, Martin Addington-Smith, 48, from Sussex, and Alexander Thompson, 53, from London, were convicted of conspiracy to defraud after an eight-month trial costing £10m.

David Farrer QC, for the prosecution, said that their sales team pressurised potential customers for up to six hours, promising huge rewards if they bought a timeshare.

But the estimates given were "wild exaggerations" and most lost money, he said.

Even while police were investigating the frauds, the team continued to take money from new victims.

The basis of the fraud was the "buy-sell" racket, Mr Farrer said. People with timeshare apartments were lured into buying new ones with the promise that the organisation would buy their old ones and sell them so they could afford the new timeshares.

Judge Gerald Gordon QC told the defendants that he had reduced their sentences because they were not the masterminds of the fraud and for the personal and financial hardships suffered by them and their families.

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