TMP co-founder tells of ‘secret board meetings’ discovery
Richard Craven, the former business partner of a pension fund boss accused of a £52m fraud, told jurors at Southwark Crown Court he was unaware of the alleged fraud until investigators were called in.
Mr Craven, who co-founded The Money Portal with Tony Morris, said he knew nothing of the allegations that Mr Morris, 49, raided nine retirement schemes, managed by GP Noble, to fund a lavish lifestyle.
Answering questions from prosecutor David Farrar QC, Mr Craven claimed to have only discovered the alleged fraud in July 2008 when pension regulators stepped in.
He said he later discovered a series of secret board meetings had taken place and investment advisers had been drafted in without his knowledge.
Mr Farrar claimed that Mr Morris orchestrated the alleged disinvestment of the funds held by Nottingham-based firm GP Noble in tranches of £30m and £22m between April 2007 and July 2008.
He said GP Noble had been bought by TMP for £2m in 2006, during which time Mr Craven was acting as the firm’s director.
Mr Farrar reminded the court of allegations that the cash was siphoned out of the UK through British Virgin Islands-registered company Fareston and another offshore company associated with Mr Morris, called Multiple Unilateral Financial Futures.
Mr Farrar asked Mr Craven if he would have expected to know about discussions to disinvest the funds and move them overseas.
He replied: “It would have been nice to be told three-quarters of the assets you had paid £2m for recently, and which were subject to great levels of regulation in a pension environment, were being considered for being moved anywhere.”
When pension regulators stepped in to investigate the movement of funds to Fareston and Muff, Mr Craven “ring fenced” all electronic data linked to GP Noble’s business, the court heard.
Mr Farrar asked Mr Craven: “Did you, or any of TMP directors, have any knowledge of the money going abroad and to these vehicles before July 2008?”
“No, none at all”, Mr Craven replied.
The court heard Mr Morris had been chief executive of TMP until 2005. In 2007, he moved to Australia, said Mr Craven, and his role with TMP “diminished” over time.
Mr Craven told jurors he gave Mr Morris £14.9m after he left.
Mr Morris is on trial alongside financial adviser Peter Malmstrom, 45, who is said to have laundered the millions taken from the GP Noble.
Mr Morris of Chiltern Polden, Somerset, denies conspiring to defraud, two counts of theft and two counts of aiding and abetting fraud. Mr Malmstrom of Ranelagh Gardens, Fulham, London, denies money laundering, entering or becoming concerned in a money laundering arrangement and two counts of transferring criminal property.
The trial continues.