Fraudster in UK’s biggest scam gets 14 years

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Corrupt businessman Kautilya Nandan Pruthi, who duped celebrities, sports stars and hundreds of other victims out of £115m in Britain’s biggest “Ponzi” investment scam, has been jailed for 14 years and six months.

Indian-born Pruthi was labelled a “professional fraudster” as he was sentenced at Southwark Crown Court yesterday, and told he faced deportation back to his home country following his jail term.

Pruthi’s associates John Anderson and Kenneth Peacock, who were found guilty by jury of unauthorised regulated activity, were jailed for 18 months for their part in the fraud.

Ponzi frauds are named after Italian fraudster Charles Ponzi and involve the payment of purported returns to existing investors from funds contributed by new investors.

Yorkshire and England cricketer Darren Gough and actor-turned-singer Jerome Flynn were among 800 people scammed as flamboyant fraudster Pruthi claimed he was one of the richest men in London.

Investors lost life savings after being told they would get massive revenue returns unmonitored by the Financial Services Authority.

Delivering his sentence to Pruthi, Judge Michael Gledhill QC said: “You are an extremely intelligent, articulate, sophisticated and plausible liar. In short, a professional fraudster.” Many investors lost their homes, pensions and life savings, he added.

Judge Gledhill said Peacock and Anderson, whom the court heard had since undertaken psychiatric counselling, were as much victims of Pruthi as other investors.

“They trusted you completely, as did everybody else that came into your orbit. They believed every false representation you made about your scheme.”

Pruthi was also made subject to a financial report order and qualifies for automatic deportation after his release from prison, the court heard.

Police said parents of disabled children and a host of undisclosed well-known names became victims as Pruthi and his associates lived in multi-million pound homes, drove Ferraris and flew in private jets.

The court was told at least 585 investors fell victim to the scheme, although as many as 700 may have been conned.

Pruthi made £38m from the swindle over three years while victims lost a total of £115m.

The con artist was arrested, with associates Anderson and Peacock, in May 2009 after City of London police launched a nationwide investigation into Ponzi fraud.

But Pruthi, 41, had already spent much of the cash during half a decade of womanising, extravagance and fast cars.

Pruthi, of Wandsworth, south-west London; former accountant Anderson, 46, of West Hampstead, and Peacock, 43, of Camberley, Surrey, were all made bankrupt after their arrests.

Before trial, Pruthi pleaded guilty to fraud charges while Anderson and Peacock were found guilty by a jury of unauthorised regulated activity but cleared of fraud and recklessly making a misleading, false or deceptive promise.