Belfast Telegraph

Corrupt financiers face jail over £245m loan scam

A group of corrupt financiers who carried out a £245 million loan scam and squandered the profits on high-end prostitutes and luxury holidays are facing lengthy jail terms.

Consultant David Mills, 59, bribed HBOS manager Lynden Scourfield, 54, with designer watches, sex parties and "boys' jollies".

The perks were a reward in exchange for him agreeing inappropriate loans to struggling businesses, which allowed Mills and his associates to profit from high consultancy fees.

Many of the businesses went bankrupt as a result and some of the owners lost their homes.

Stephen Rowland, of the Crown Prosecution Service fraud division, said: "This had a very real impact on a lot of people, individuals who had worked had to build up companies.

"They found themselves losing their companies and in many cases losing their homes as well as suffering enormous emotional strain and trauma.

"There's no way this was a victimless crime - as a result of this crime, real people suffered great hardship."

Mills and his wife Alison Mills, 51; Michael Bancroft, 73; Mark Dobson, 55; and John Cartwright, 71, were convicted of various roles in the fraud between 2003 and 2007 after a four-month trial at Southwark Crown Court.

Scourfield, who pleaded guilty last year, looked after corporate customers experiencing financial difficulties at HBOS's branch in Reading, Berkshire, until 2007 when he resigned.

Mills lavished the banker with clothes, jewellery, luxury hotels, business-class flights and expensive meals at an oyster bar and a cheesecake restaurant.

His wife also played an active role in the scheme. She invited Dobson and the Scourfields to go on trips to Ascot, while Mills, Bancroft, Scourfield and their wives holidayed together in Barbados to celebrate her 40th birthday.

Mills treated Scourfield to a Cartier watch worth more than £3,000, a Barbados trip and a six-star, all-inclusive cruise on the Mediterranean in the second most expensive accommodation on the ship, the two-bedroom Royal Suite.

The pair attended several parties with high-end escorts at a flat in west London, where a number of sex acts were carried out.

One woman who worked at Fantasy - a porn magazine company under Scourfield's portfolio - said she was asked to arrange girls for the "posh twat banker friends".

Mr Rowland said: "There was a very seedy side to this case and that's indicative of the kind of mindset and the kind of sleazy elements of these kinds of crimes."

One company, Clode, was operating within its £2.9 million overdraft in 2002 when a meeting was held to discuss its financial position - its total indebtedness to the bank by 2007 was £20.558 million.

Mills was found guilty of conspiracy to corrupt, four counts of fraudulent trading and conspiracy to conceal criminal property. His wife was convicted of conspiracy to conceal criminal property.

Bancroft, who was convicted of conspiracy to corrupt, three counts of fraudulent trading and one of conspiracy to conceal criminal property, received £1 million in payments from Mills and the high-risk companies being helped by HBOS.

Cartwright, from Hyde, Cheshire, was convicted of fraudulent trading and conspiracy to conceal criminal property, while Dobson, from Bishop's Stortford, Hertfordshire, was found guilty of conspiracy to corrupt and conspiracy to conceal criminal property.

They are all due to be sentenced on Thursday.

Scourfield's accountant, Jonathan Cohen, 57, was acquitted of fraudulent trading and conspiracy to conceal criminal property.

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