Four guilty in Crown Currency collapse case

Crown Currency Exchange
Image caption Crown Currency Exchange collapsed in 2010 with debts of £20m

Four people have been found guilty of offences connected to the collapse of a currency exchange firm that went bust.

Crown Currency, based in Hayle, Cornwall, was one of the UK's largest personal currency exchange businesses before it collapsed with debts of £20m in October 2010.

Up to 13,000 people are believed to have lost money, a court heard.

The accused were found guilty of fraudulent trading, false accounting and money laundering.

Established in 2004, Crown 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 currencies, as well as travellers' cheques and money transfers, sometimes for people to buy property.

The six defendants are:

  • Director, Peter Benstead, 72, of Penzance, denied four counts of theft, three of fraudulent trading, two of false accounting and one of converting criminal property
  • Director, Edward James, 75, former mayor of Glastonbury, Somerset, denied two counts each of fraudulent trading and two of false accounting
  • Employee, Stephen Matthews, 52, of St Newlyn East, Cornwall denied two counts each of fraudulent trading and two of false accounting
  • Employee, Roderick Schmidt, 46, of Penzance, denied three counts of false accounting, two of fraudulent trading and one of theft
  • Peter Benstead's son, Julian Benstead, 46, of Penzance, denied one count each of fraudulent trading and theft
  • Peter Benstead's wife, Susan Benstead, 70, of Penzance denied one count of converting criminal property

Prosecutor Peter Grieves-Smith told Southwark Crown Court the firm found holes in profits after poor speculation on the markets and used new customers' cash to pay existing clients.

Crown's day-to-day manager Roderick Schmidt was convicted of two counts of fraudulent trading and cleared of two counts of false accounting.

Crown's former accountant Stephen Matthews was convicted of two counts of false accounting but cleared of two counts of fraudulent trading.

Julian Benstead - who ran Crown's sister company, which specialised in trading cash for gold - was convicted of one count of fraudulent trading. He was cleared of the theft of 25lb (11.3kg) of gold which went "missing" in the days leading up to Crown's collapse.

Susan Benstead was convicted of one charge of money laundering, using nearly £900,000 of customers' money to buy a luxury home in Cornwall.

Former Crown director Edward James, ex-mayor of Glastonbury, was found not guilty of two counts of false accounting. The jury is still considering two charges of fraudulent trading.

Jurors, who have so far spent 45 hours and 30 minutes deliberating, have yet to return verdicts on counts against Peter Benstead, Susan's husband and co-director of Crown.

They are due to continue deliberating on Thursday.

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