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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.

By Olly Wright | Published May 15, 2012 | comments

The court heard allegations that Tony Morris, 49, plundered cash belonging to the customers of Nottingham-based GP Noble to invest in Thai luxury resorts, online bookmakers and pay off his ex-wife.

David Farrar QC, prosecuting, claimed 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.

He said 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 alleged that Mr Morris had worked with Graham Pitcher, GP Noble’s managing director, to gain access to the cash.

But during cross-examination of Fabian Piccardo, a former lawyer and now chief minister of Gibraltar, 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. He had also helped to set up a string of offshore companies and trusts for Mr Morris in 2008.

Mr Morris is on trial alongside financial adviser Peter Malmstrom, 45, who is said to have laundered millions taken from GP Noble.

Mr Morris of Broadway, Chiltern Polden, near Bridgwater, Somerset, denies conspiring to defraud, two counts of theft and two counts of aiding and abetting fraud.

Mr Malmstrom of Ranelagh Gardens, Fulham, southwest London, denies money laundering, entering or becoming concerned in a money laundering arrangement, and two counts of transferring criminal property.

The trial continues.

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