A STOCKBROKER who defrauded some of Britain’s shrewdest business people to live a life of luxury has been jailed for 13 years.
Nicholas Levene, 48, orchestrated a lucrative Ponzi scheme, living the high life and raking £316m into his bank accounts between April 2005 and September 2009.
Yesterday he was locked up after he admitted ripping off a series of high-fliers, including Sir Brian Souter and his sister Ann Gloag, the founders of the Stagecoach bus and rail group; Richard Caring, owner of The Ivy and Le Caprice restaurants in London’s West End; and Russell Bartlett, director of the R3 Investment Group and former owner of Hull City Football Club.
Levene was a successful City worker with an estimated wealth of between £15m and £20m in 2005.
But he was addicted to gambling, spending fortunes on spread betting, and had an insatiable taste for luxury.
Levene admitted one count of false accounting, one of obtaining a money transfer by deception, and 12 counts of fraud. The amount attributed to his false accounting was £32.3m.
But with his customers’ lost profits, the amount shot up to a total of more than £101m.
Serious Fraud Office investigators discovered that during the four years of 48-year-old Levene’s offending, he paid out £310m from his accounts.
Some of the money was given to investors to keep them temporarily happy but he also spent massive amounts on schools for his children, cars, flash holidays for his family, yachts and properties, including a home in Israel.
He also spent £588,000 on a family celebration.
Andrew Edis QC said the devout Jew spent £18m on funding his lifestyle.
“It was a very lavish lifestyle sustained out of the proceeds of this fraud,” he told Southwark Crown Court.
“It is an example of an extremely sophisticated arrangement of moving money between different back accounts in different jurisdictions.”
He added: “He spent a high proportion of it on himself and his family living the high life and then, when approached for repayment by investors, fobbing them off and using dishonestly created documents and false promises.”
Levene, of Barnet Road, Barnet, Hertfordshire, would take from Peter to pay Paul – using £1.2m from Mr Bartlett to repay other investors – and shift the funds between accounts in financial havens Jersey, Switzerland and Israel.
With his network of contacts and strong reputation, Levene won people’s faith with seemingly concrete investment deals from which he would take a commission or fee.
But he dug an ever-deepening financial hole for himself, having to repeatedly “fob off” clients and make excuses about why he could not pay them.
Judge Martin Beddoe said Levene’s offending was unprecedented.
Condemning his “rank dishonesty”, the judge said: “From 2005 to 2009 you were responsible for a fraud on a massive scale with a huge panoply of aggravating features, well planned and professionally executed, involving huge sums and huge profits with multiple victims whose trust in you was grossly abused.
“It was committed over a long period, was well concealed and you took further steps to conceal it and further steps to hide profits from it. The outstanding losses of £100m speak for themselves.”
Investigators found evidence of round-the-world holidays, yacht hire and top hotel stays in Australia, South Africa and Israel.
Levene had a fleet of high performance cars and for his second son’s bar mitzvah he threw a massive London party with a performance by girl band The Saturdays.
His gambling was huge with investigators finding evidence of him blowing £720,000 on a cricket match bet in 2007.