GP Noble boss was ‘entitled’ to spend money: court
A pension fund boss accused of stealing £52m was entitled to spend the money on ‘wine, women and song’, Southwark Crown Court has heard.
Tony Morris, 49, is on trial accused of plundering cash belonging to the customers of Nottingham-based GP Noble to invest in Thai luxury resorts, online bookmakers and pay off his ex-wife.
The court heard allegations that Mr Morris orchestrated the disinvestment of £52m and moved the cash into the Swiss bank accounts of two offshore companies, Fareston and Multiple Unilateral Financial Futures.
Prosecutor David Farrar QC claimed that Mr Morris used the money for a string of “ambitious and generally risky global financial plans” and to meet his “immediate lavish financial needs”.
The Money Portal bought GP Noble in 2006, at which time Mr Morris was a director. Mr Farrar said Mr Morris had worked with GP Noble’s managing director, Graham Pitcher to gain access to the cash.
But during the cross-examination of lawyer-turned-chief minister of Gibraltar, Fabian Piccardo. Mr Morris’s barrister, Sean Larkin QC, told jurors that, as the owner of the disinvested pension funds, Mr Morris was entitled to do as he saw fit with the cash.
He said: “As far as the pension funds are concerned if a pension fund enters into an agreement, let’s say it bought a property, the person who sold the property could do whatever he likes with the money he received for the sale of the property.
“If the pension fund entered into a loan and lent me £1m, I could do whatever I liked with the £1m, but the principle is that I say I will pay back the whole £1m and every year I will give you say 5 per cent of the £1m.
“I can spend the whole £1m, it is not the pension fund’s money any more, it is my money. If I go and spend it on wine, women and song you can’t say I’ve spent the pension fund’s money, I’ve spent my own money.”
Mr Piccardo, who appeared in court through a video link from the Mediterranean, worked at law firm Hassans and had been involved in the drafting of the two Muff bonds, and had helped in setting up a string of offshore companies and trusts for Mr Morris in 2008.
He told jurors that he did not believe Mr Morris was acting dishonestly at the time.
Mr Larkin asked: “Is it fair to say throughout that time you did not for one moment think there was anything dishonest going on?”
“Absolutely”, said Mr Piccardo.
Mr Larkin continued: “In fact you did not suspect there was anything dishonest going on at all?”
Mr Piccardo replied: “That’s correct. My only concerns related to due diligence and issues related to corporate governance.”
He had previously told the court that detail of the two Muff bonds drafted by Hassans had been amended at Morris request.
Mr Piccardo said he had asked that the bond be re-drafted to state the repayment of the capital was ‘not guaranteed’, that rates of interest were ‘targeted’, and that rates of interest were not guaranteed.
- TMP co-founder tells of ‘secret board meetings’ discovery
- Money Portal boss knew nothing of pension theft