Leeds & West Yorkshire

Three jailed for £10m Majorca Ponzi fraud

John Hirst (right) and wife Linda on their wedding day
Image caption The judge said John Hirst "wanted it all"

A couple and an accountant who teamed up to use money from a fraudulent £10m investment scheme to fund a lavish lifestyle have been jailed.

John Hirst, 61, of Huddersfield Road, Brighouse, West Yorks, was sentenced at Bradford Crown Court to nine years for his part in the Ponzi scheme.

His estranged wife, Linda Hirst, 61, of Woking, Surrey, will serve two-and-a-half years for money laundering.

Richard Pollett, 70, of Poole, Dorset, was jailed for six-and-a-half years.

He was found guilty of conspiracy to defraud.

John Hirst pleaded guilty to conspiracy to defraud and two counts of money laundering at the beginning of the trial.

Linda Hirst was found guilty of three counts of money laundering and one count of evading a liability by deception.

The court heard the couple, who are no longer together, enjoyed luxury holidays and lavish wedding celebrations in Las Vegas and Majorca with the proceeds of the scheme.

'Decent and trusting'

Hirst, a former insurance salesman, had previously been convicted for fraudulently taking redundancy money from former Yorkshire miners in the 1990s.

In 2001 he set up a Ponzi scheme with Pollett in Majorca, which ran for eight years, promising British people quick returns on their investments.

Judge Jonathan Durham-Hall QC said those targeted by the pair were mainly ordinary, hard-working people who put their pensions and savings into the scheme after being promised huge returns and a risk-free guarantee.

Many were elderly or divorced and all were decent and trusting, he said.

The judge said Hirst also tried to involve other members of his family in the scheme.

His solicitor son, Daniel Hirst, and Linda Hirst's daughter, Zoe Waite, were cleared of money laundering charges at the trial earlier this year.

Judge Durham-Hall said to John Hirst: "You wanted it all - get rich quick.

Image caption Richard Pollett helped set up the Ponzi scheme in 2001

"You had the greed and the desire for the high life, which overcame all morality."

The judge told Hirst and Pollett: "You are through and through common criminals. What you did, and what makes this case of the utmost gravity, was brutal, callous and cruel. You are corrupt.

"This was an appalling and shocking course of conduct in which so many were targeted and so many have, in effect, had the remainder of their lives shattered and ruined."

Sentencing Linda Hirst, the judge said: "You did, from June 2006 onwards, enjoy the most profligate of high standards of living, jet-setting here and there, cruises here and there, and, of course, Mr Hirst liberally showered you with money and jewels."

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