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31 May 2012, 14:25 | Updated: 1 June 2012, 13:31
Three men have been found guilty at Norwich Crown Court in one of the largest and most complex fraud investigations ever conducted by Norfolk Constabulary.
Over the past four months, six men have stood trial at Norwich Crown Court after a Norfolk businessman and a church lost millions of pounds in investments.
Today, Thursday 31 May 2012, Alan Hunt, aged 65 and of Poole has been convicted by a jury of conspiracy to defraud Graham Dacre and the New Apostolic Church in Dortmund. Arthur Ford-Batey, aged 62 and of Carlisle was found guilty of conspiracy to defraud Graham Dacre. Ian Yorkshire, aged 62 and of Brighton was yesterday, Wednesday 30 May, found guilty of conspiracy to launder criminal property relating to the two frauds.
Three other defendants were cleared of all charges against them.
The investigation began when a complaint was made to Norfolk Police by Graham Dacre, a local businessman. In March 2008 he was introduced to Alan Hunt and Arthur Ford-Batey. They persuaded him to invest 15 million euros into a programme which they claimed would yield returns on his funds. He was reassured that his funds would remain under his control at all times. Mr Dacre signed a contract and was asked to transfer his funds into a bank account in Switzerland under the control of Ian Yorkshire. He believed that the funds would be instantly transferred on to an account set up in his name and under his control.
Mr Dacre travelled to Zurich in 2008 and an account was set up for him. In May 2008 Mr Dacre transferred 15m Euros into Ian Yorkshire's account. Mr Dacre's investment never materialised and he has not been able to recover his money.
A further complaint was received by the Serious Fraud Office from the German-based New Apostolic Church in Dortmund. This was joined up with Norfolk's investigation. In late 2007 representatives of the church were introduced to Alan Hunt, who outlined to them an investment programme.
Representatives of the church travelled to the UK in December 2007 for a meeting with Alan Hunt who said he was a representative of a business called HBF Capital, and discussed the investment programme which, it was understood, utilised available European grants and subsidies for humanitarian projects. At the conclusion of the programme (after 13 months) these would be returned to the organisation, along with their invested capital, to be used for their humanitarian work.
At this meeting the church representatives signed an agreement to invest 10million Euros. The church then arranged the transfer of this money to an account held in the UK, in the name of Ian Yorkshire.
They believed that after a short period, the full amount of their investment would be moved to an account held in their name and under their control which was to be opened in Switzerland where it would remain for the duration of the agreement. Although an account in Switzerland was opened, the church's funds never arrived and all attempts by them to retrieve the funds failed.
Extensive enquiries have been made by Norfolk Constabulary and where identified, money and assets relating to this investigation have been restrained, both in the UK and abroad. Yorkshire, Hunt and Ford-Batey will be sentenced at Norwich Crown Court tomorrow morning, Friday 1 June.
Detective Inspector Brian Beech who leads the Economic Crime Unit said: "This has been a complex and protracted investigation which has been ongoing for over three years. The offenders targeted individuals and organisations that believed in ethical investment, and falsely persuaded them that a portion of their profits from the investments would benefit humanitarian projects. Once obtained, the money was quickly spirited away into a number of foreign bank accounts and then used to support the offenders' lifestyle, whilst stringing along the victims over a period of months, and in some cases years, with false promises regarding the return of the funds and payment of profits. At the same time they were claiming to be involved in humanitarian projects aimed at some of the poorest and most disadvantaged people around the world.
The amounts involved, victims from overseas, and the extensive use of bank accounts abroad to receive and dissipate funds, contributed to this being one of the largest and most complex fraud investigations ever conducted by the Economic Crime Unit and I would like to thank my team for their hard work on this case."
Investigating Officer DC 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."
Individuals and businesses who are promoting investment business in the UK must be registered with the Financial Services Authority and this registration can be checked at www.fsa.gov.uk If you deal with an individual or business that is not registered with the FSA, you will not be protected by compensation schemes if things go wrong.