Fraudster who conned Formula 1 heiress put in prison

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A BUILDER has been jailed for conning the daughter of Formula 1 boss Bernie Ecclestone out of £1.58m while involved in 
the redevelopment of her mansion.

Paul Fleury, once a trusted friend of Petra Stunt, heir to her father’s multi-billion racing fortune, will spend nine months behind bars for siphoning cash meant for work on the Chelsea property into his private bank account.

Last month, a High Court judge ruled that Petra Stunt was entitled to summary judgment against Fleury in that sum because he had used forged invoices to exploit his position of trust while heading £25m renovations at Sloane Lodge, which Mrs Stunt bought in February 2012.

During the litigation, Mrs Stunt’s counsel, David Cavender QC described Fleury as a ‘‘sophisticated fraudster’’ and said his defence that there was an oral agreement that he was entitled to 5 per cent commission was a fabrication.

Mr Justice Turner branded his defence as “a convenient lie’”.

Yesterday the judge agreed with lawyers for Sloane House Ltd – Mrs Stunt’s company which engaged the contractors undertaking the redevelopment - that Fleury, who worked for the Ecclestone family for seven years, had flouted the terms of an injunction freezing his assets and should receive an immediate prison term as punishment for his flagrant contempt of court.

He said that Fleury had made a “misguided” attempt to preserve Fleury’s mechanical installation, servicing and repair business but had also facilitated the maintenance of his ‘hedonistic lifestyle’.

Robert Wynn Jones, of law firm Mishcon de Reya, said: “It is important that the courts impose custodial sentences in these circumstances. Freezing orders are an essential part of the legal toolkit in these types of fraud cases. Breaches of orders are unacceptable.”