Suffolk

Universal Wealth: 'Fraudster' Steve Long jailed over missing £25m

Universal Wealth Management leaflet
Image caption Universal Wealth Management collapsed leaving clients fearing for their life savings

An alleged fraudster accused of ripping off hundreds of pensioners has been jailed after failing to help clients track down £25m of their investments.

Hundreds of people saw their savings disappear after the collapse of Steve Long's Ipswich-based Universal Wealth, the High Court heard.

He was ordered by Mrs Justice Rose to provide information to help track down the missing money.

Mr Long was jailed for eight months for failing to provide the information.

No criminal charges have been brought, but he is now facing 27 damages claims from families amidst what lawyers say is "cogent evidence" of a "massive fraud".

Image caption Ipswich-based Universal Wealth Management is now closed and 100 staff have lost their jobs

In breach of his duties as a trustee, Mr Long is accused of using clients' money to prop up his businesses and transferring money abroad.

Despite claiming to have little more than the clothes on his back and a push bike, he is alleged to own valuable properties in Mexico.

As part of the claims, he was ordered to provide information to help track down the missing money so that his former clients can try to get it back.

After failing to do that, he has now been jailed by Mrs Justice Rose for contempt of court.

Mr Long ran several companies under the Universal Wealth umbrella, based in Dencora House in Ipswich.

Barrister for the 27 claimants Oliver Hyam said there was "cogent evidence that Long has perpetrated a massive fraud against hundreds of victims".

"Overall, around £25m is thought to be missing," he said.

Giving evidence, Mr Long - who was not asked if he admits or denies the fraud allegation - said he did not know about the order for disclosure of his assets because of his mental health problems.

He had moved to Arundel, West Sussex, and did not open the mail which arrived, he said.

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