Ponzi scheme pair not guilty of deception

Kautilya Pruthi Kautilya Pruthi had already admitted his role in the scheme

Two businessmen have been cleared of deceiving hundreds of victims out of £115m in Britain's biggest "Ponzi" investment scam.

John Anderson and Kenneth Peacock were found not guilty of recklessly making a misleading, false or deceptive promise.

On Monday, the pair were convicted at Southwark Crown Court of unauthorised regulated activity in a scheme masterminded by Kautilya Nandan Pruthi.

Jurors also cleared them of one count each of fraud.

Pruthi, 41, from Wandsworth, south-west London, was described as a career fraudster who persuaded nearly 800 people to invest.

He was said to have claimed their enterprises made short-term high profit loans to importers and exporters.

'Immense losses'

Start Quote

Unfortunately there is no way of repairing the damage done to many of their victims' lives”

End Quote Det Supt Bob Wishart

But the funds were instead used to fund lavish lifestyles including luxury homes, supercars and flights in private jets.

A Ponzi scheme describes one in which returns to investors come from money paid by subsequent investors rather than any profits.

The former cricketer Darren Gough and actor Jerome Flynn were among the victims.

Aided by Anderson, 46, from West Hampstead, north-west London, and Peacock, 43, from Camberley, Surrey, Pruthi made £38m from the swindle over three years.

Of a total loss to victims estimated at more than £115m, it is thought less than £2m could be returned to investors.

WHAT IS A PONZI SCHEME?

  • The fraud was named after Italian immigrant Carlos (Charles) Ponzi who set up schemes in Boston and Florida in the 1920s
  • Criminals offer investors high returns over a short period of time
  • Some of that money pays fake returns to other investors
  • The rest of the money is used to fund the lifestyles of the criminals
  • The fund collapses when people stop joining or too many existing members withdraw funds

Prosecutor David Aaronberg QC said Pruthi, a father of one, was believed to be the UK's most successful Ponzi fraudster.

He said: "The scale of this scheme was vast and the losses were immense. Several investors lost their homes, others have been declared bankrupt."

The trio were arrested in May 2009 after City of London police launched a nationwide investigation into Ponzi fraud. They were all made bankrupt after their arrests.

Before the trial, Pruthi pleaded guilty at Southwark Crown Court to four specimen counts of obtaining money transfers by deception, one count of participating in a fraudulent business, one count of unauthorised regulated activity and one count of converting and removing criminal property.

One of the expensive sports cars bought by Pruthi The trio bought a fleet of expensive cars

Indian-born Pruthi ploughed millions into luxury racing firm Apex Motorsports in a bid to impress investors.

Det Supt Benjamin Flannaghan, who led the City of London police inquiry, described Pruthi as a "flashy operator".

"It is like a spider's web of corruption stretching around the world," he said.

"There is not a continent that is not touched by it. It was sold to people as a private limited scheme to friends and families. It was anything but."

Det Supt Bob Wishart said: "Pruthi used fast cars, helicopters and luxury houses to create an illusion of success and legitimacy.

"In reality he was a cold-hearted criminal driven by greed, with an unquenchable desire to steal and spend leading to the construction and collapse of the UK's biggest Ponzi scheme.

"It took a complex and painstaking investigation over several years to blow away all the smoke screens and ensure Pruthi faced justice.

"Unfortunately there is no way of repairing the damage done to many of their victims' lives, their money is gone."

Pruthi, Anderson and Peacock will be sentenced on Thursday, Judge Michael Gledhill QC said.

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