The showbusiness accountant Keith Moore was jailed for six years yesterday for stealing pounds 6m from the rock superstar Sting.
Moore, 51, Sting's financial adviser for 15 years, lost pounds 4.8m in a series of investments the star knew nothing about, including a chain of Indian restaurants in Australia, a scheme to convert Russian military aircraft into passenger jumbos, and the development of an ecologically friendly gearbox. The rest he used to twice stave off personal bankruptcy.
Moore, whose clients also included Queen and Big Country, stood ramrod straight in the dock at Southwark Crown Court after a four-week trial and an overnight wait for the verdict. Judge Gerald Butler said he had deceived those who trusted him by siphoning off money from Sting's accounts with Coutts Bank into a Bank of Scotland account Sting did not know existed.
Coutts, which Sting claimed never had a mandate to allow Moore to withdraw the stolen millions, has since reimbursed pounds 4.8m with interest.
Yesterday the Institute of Chartered Accountants said Moore had been "automatically" struck off in April last year after he became bankrupt and revealed that he had been disciplined three times between 1979 and 1986 for professional misconduct after clients lodged complaints against him.
Yesterday, a spokesman for Sting said the star was "pleased it was all over" but refused to comment on whether he had been aware of the previous disciplinary action.
Ian Grant, Big Country's manager, said that dealing with Moore "became a complete nightmare". He had refused to hand over the band's records and accounts after it challenged his fees. "He tried to take a lot of the financial control out of my jurisdiction and set up a complicated tax structure with a web of companies, all of which generated huge fees for himself," said Mr Grant.
As Moore was taken down Santosh Banger, his girlfriend, collapsed sobbing.
On Monday, before the jury retired, the judge joked that even he had heard of Sting, who first rocketed to fame in the late 1970s with the band the Police. But he asked jurors to treat the star like anyone else.
But the alleged theft of pounds 6m from Gordon Matthew Sumner, the working- class boy and former primary teacher who made it big, was never going to be ordinary. Before the jury was selected 30 prospective members were asked if they had ever been members of Sting or Police fan clubs. Sting might have been a little disappointed - no one spoke up.
The fact that pounds 6m went missing without the star noticing, until an anonymous tip-off, rather singled out the story. The court was told Sting was too busy touring and making records to realise the money was missing.
And from the seaweed milk- shake that Moore claimed Sting offered him during a meeting at his Malibu home to the ease with which the star signed his name to a pounds 690,000 cheque, there were constant reminders of lavish wealth and superstar status to ease the tedium of detailed accounts and complicated bank transfers.
The appearance of Sting drew the biggest audience. There was little rock'n'roll about the star, in his businessman's grey suit, when he took the stand, looking ill at ease for a man who regularly performs before crowds of 100,000.
But the trappings were still there. In the public gallery he was watched by his entourage - complete with bodyguards - sitting near a wild-haired man who turned up most days, occasionally sporting a "Keith Moore is innocent" badge.
Sting claimed that his financial system - designed by Moore - involved 108 accounts and was "hard to get a handle on". When he said he did not have the time to pore over the details of his finances, Moore's defence tried to make something of the star's A-level in economics and his previous employment with the Inland Revenue. "You can't have somebody at the Inland Revenue who is horrified by financial documents," said Nicholas Purnell QC, the defence counsel. There was laughter in court when Sting replied that might have had some bearing on his short career as a taxman.
Later he denied he had given Moore the pounds 690,000 cheque to pay off the accountant's tax bill. "I'm a generous man," he said. "But not that generous."
Sting insisted that Moore had told him the cheque was for the star's own tax - since he had paid more than pounds 20m to the taxman he did not query the sum. He added that had Moore told him he needed the money to pay his own tax alarm bells would have rung. "If he couldn't do his own, how could he do mine," he said.
In court there was some evidence that Moore, middle-aged and straight, had seen his position as a guarantee of a slice of the rock'n'roll action. Reputedly earning pounds 800,000 a year, he was given to his own lavish gestures. At Sting's 40th birthday party he presented his client with a small token of his appreciation - a Jaguar XJS.
There were a couple of wonderful cameo roles. Trudie Styler, Sting's wife, pregnant with their fourth child, explained why she never as much as peeked at her husband's numerous bank statements.
When Sting had left his first wife, Ms Styler, a producer and documentary maker, said she was wounded by suggestions that she married him for his money.
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