Banking fraud and corruption trial starts
The trial has started of six people accused of fraud and corruption involving a department of the Halifax Bank of Scotland (HBOS).
David Mills, Michael Bancroft, Mark Dobson, Alison Mills, Jonathan Cohen and Tony Cartwright, have pleaded not guilty.
Southwark Crown Court was told that the six were involved in a racket led by another man, Lynden Scourfield.
He was the former head of the HBOS "impaired assets" division in Reading.
Prosecutors allege that between 2003 and 2007, he abused his role overseeing the supposed recovery of the bank's small business customers who were in financial difficulty, in the whole of the South of England.
Scourfield, the court was told, advanced huge extra sums to the businesses from HBOS, "well past the point when it would have been obvious to any honest banker that the bank debt could and would never be repaid", said the prosecutor, Brian O'Neill QC.
He then insisted the troubled businesses engage the services of Quayside Corporate Services, his favoured firm of "turnaround" consultants run by one of the accused, David Mills, a former banker.
In return Scourfield, who is not on trial, received "huge rewards" including cash, gifts, luxurious holidays and sex with "high class escorts".
That in turn gave Mr Mills the opportunity to extract large sums from the small business customers in consultancy "fees".
More than £28m passed through the personal accounts of Mr Mills and his wife Alison, from Moreton-in-Marsh in Gloucestershire, the crown alleges.
However the additional benefit of the corrupt relationship for Mills and associates was the opportunity to take control of various businesses and in some cases to take ownership of them in order to enrich themselves.
Total losses to HBOS from loans made to the small business customers under Mr Scourfield's supervision were £245m, Brian O'Neill QC told the court.
The accused were "not troubled" by the effect on the business customers.
"Many individuals suffered great financial loss and considerable personal trauma as a result of their callous disregard for the businesses they had established, owned and managed," said Mr O'Neill.
The six defendants are charged with six counts of conspiracy to corrupt, fraudulent trading and conspiracy to conceal criminal property.
David Mills and Michael Bancroft ran Quayside Corporate Services, Tony Cartwright and Jonathan Cohen were accountants, and Mark Dobson was an HBOS manager.
HBOS is now part of the Lloyds Banking Group.