Seven are charged over failed currency business

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Seven people, including three members of the same family, have been charged following an investigation into the collapse of a currency exchange business.

Peter Benstead and Edward James, joint directors of Crown Currency Exchange Ltd and Crown Holdings, secretary Stephen Matthews, and senior manager Roderick Schmidt, were charged with knowingly carrying on business for a fraudulent purpose and falsified accounts following an investigation by Devon and Cornwall Police.

Benstead’s son Julian is charged with one count of fraudulent trading and one count of theft of gold, while his daughter Katey was also charged with one count of obtaining a money transfer by deception concerning a fraudulent mortgage application.

The seventh person is Victoria O’Brien, a spokeswoman for the Crown Prosecution Service said.

Sue Patten, head of fraud at the CPS, said: “We have today authorised seven people to be charged in connection with two companies operating in the field of foreign currency exchange – Crown Currency Exchange Ltd and Crown Holdings Ltd and a third associated ‘cash for gold’ company – Mayfair and Grant Ltd.”

She said that Peter Benstead was also charged with theft. It is alleged that he removed over a £1 million from the companies of which he was a co-director during the relevant period.

“Additionally, he faces two counts of perverting the course of justice, one of which is with his daughters Katey Benstead and Victoria O’Brien, in relation to the alleged burning of documents connected to the companies.

“Further, Peter Benstead is also charged with one count of converting criminal property in relation to the purchase of a property.”

She added that Peter Benstead, James, Matthews and Schmidt will also face two counts each of failing to keep adequate accounting records.

Crown Currency Exchange and partner business Crown Holdings Ltd, went into administration in October 2010 owing £16 million and leaving as many as 8,000 people without foreign currency they had bought in advance to get a better exchange rate.

Set up in 2005, the Cornwall-based business allowed individuals and business customers to pre-order foreign exchange at a set price up to a year in advance. It provided money in 80 different currencies.

The seven defendants will appear before magistrates on a date to be determined.