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'Corrupt' solicitor denied bail after verdict in £109mn Axiom case

'Corrupt' solicitor denied bail after verdict in £109mn Axiom case
Southwark Crown Court. [Photo: Shutterstock/Fotoware]

A corrupt solicitor who lived a life of luxury on an estate in Cumbria as he fleeced investors out of more than £25m is facing jail.

Southwark Crown Court heard how Timothy Schools, 61, ran a scheme financing loans to law firms in 'no win no fee' cases between December 2008 and October 2012.

The jury reached a verdict on the case after 28 hours' deliberation.

He stands to be sentenced at Southwark Crown Court on Thursday 18th August and remains in custody until that date.

Judge Martin Beddoe said: "You have been convicted of the most egregious and persistent crime involving huge sums of money. You are now facing a very lengthy period of imprisonment with consecutive sentences.

"I am sure you would have prepared your family already. I cannot believe what has happened today has come as any real surprise. Granting you bail would make things harder for your family and harder for you.

"I simply don’t trust you to turn up. I refuse bail and you will remain in custody until Thursday."

More than 500 investors sank cash into the The Axiom Legal Financing Fund scheme, which claimed to insure lenders against unfinished cases or solicitors going bankrupt.

Schools received £19.5mn from the Cayman Islands-registered fund, using some of the money to pay for an estate in Cumbria.

He also had a £45,000 corporate box at Blackpool FC’s home ground, claiming it was a business expense for the purpose of corporate hospitality.

Schools owned Preston firm ATM Solicitors, given its name because he used it as ‘his personal cash machine’, Southwark Crown Court heard.

He claimed it was a ‘cashpoint’ for clients to withdraw cash, conduct their litigation and get them compensation, hence the name.

The lawyer had insisted the company was providing a valuable service to fill the 'black hole' left in the market following the Payment Protection Insurance Scandal in 2009.

He ran the scheme with Richard Emmett, 48, and David Kennedy, 69.

Schools, of Sedbergh, Cumbria, denied but was convicted of three counts of fraudulent trading, one count of fraud and one count of transferring criminal property.

Emmett, received just over £1m through his firm Emmetts Solicitors, while Kennedy made more than £5m, some of which went on property in the Swiss Alps and Tenerife.

He was cleared of fraudulent trading and facilitating criminal property, charges he had denied.

Kennedy, of Houghton-le-Spring, Tyne and Wear, denied one count of fraudulent trading.

The jury could not reach a verdict in his case and he is facing a possible retrial.

As Schools was led off to custody to await sentence he was told by the judge he was guilty of 'egregious and persistent crime involving huge sums of money.'

£100mn investment scam

Axiom's marketing material claimed investors' cash would be held in the Cayman Islands and forwarded to an 'independent panel' of law firms who would pay it back with 15 per cent interest.