Caribbean properties of 'eye-watering low value', court told

Slade explained how Ames, although not in fact a company director, appeared to exercise a high degree of control over the company.

"I was told that Daniel Ames [a company director] was responsible for managing transactions, transferring money and so on and so forth, but it was always under the instruction from Dave.

"Money didn’t leave the accounts unless instructed by Dave.

"The fundamental direction and decision-making was with Dave."

Slade also understood the bookkeeper, Sarah Tricker, to be a ‘close friend or relative’ of Ames. He told the court she acted as a ‘gatekeeper’ who made it difficult for employees to get the information they required to carry out their role.

She was also said to be unqualified as a bookkeeper, especially for a company of HMSSE’s size.

Slade said: "From the extent of money coming through and where it was coming from, I realised she was out of her depth.

"It was a ‘silo’ management style. Each individual is only told what they need to know to do what they have to do.

"Literally if you thought you didn’t need to know something, you weren’t told. It was very much a need-to-know type basis."

Ames was supposedly ‘furious’ with Slade in one instance where he shared company information with his colleagues, the court heard.

Ames, of Essex, denies three counts of fraud by abuse of position.