London

Kautilya Pruthi jailed for UK's biggest Ponzi scam worth £115m

Kautilya Pruthi
Image caption Kautilya Pruthi led a lavish lifestyle

A corrupt businessman who masterminded the UK's biggest Ponzi scam has been jailed for more than 14 years.

Kautilya Pruthi, 41, from Wandsworth, south-west London, was described as a career fraudster who persuaded hundreds of people to invest.

His victims, who included actor Jerome Flynn and cricketer Darren Gough, were duped out of £115m with some losing homes, pensions and life savings.

Ponzi schemes pay returns to investors using further investments, not profits.

Of the total loss to victims, it is thought less than £2m will be returned to investors.

Handing out a sentence of 14 years and six months, Judge Michael Gledhill QC said: "You (Pruthi) are an extremely intelligent, articulate, sophisticated and plausible liar.

"In short, a professional fraudster."

Lavish lifestyles

His victims were told they would receive massive returns on their investments.

But the funds were instead used to fund lavish lifestyles including luxury homes, supercars and flights in private jets.

Pruthi made £38m from the swindle over three years, the court heard.

His associates John Anderson, 46, from West Hampstead, north-west London, and Kenneth Peacock, 43, from Camberley, Surrey, were jailed for 18 months each for the their part in the scam.

They were found guilty of unauthorised regulated activity, but cleared of fraud and recklessly making a misleading, false or deceptive promise.

Prosecutor David Aaronberg QC said Pruthi, a father of one, was believed to be the UK's most successful Ponzi fraudster.

Image caption Kenneth Peacock and John Anderson were duped by Kautilya Pruthi, the court heard

Mr Gledhill said Peacock and Anderson, who 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," he said.

'Web of corruption'

Indian-born Pruthi was made subject to a financial report order and was told he qualified for automatic deportation after his release from prison.

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

Investors from Britain, Australia, Singapore, Hong Kong, Thailand and Spain were eventually lured into parting with their cash at the prospect of easy money.

"It is like a spider's web of corruption stretching around the world," said Det Supt Benjamin Flannaghan of the City of London police.

Det Supt Bob Wishart said: "Pruthi used fast cars, helicopters and luxury houses to create an illusion of success and legitimacy.

"In reality he was a cold-hearted criminal driven by greed, with an unquenchable desire to steal and spend leading to the construction and collapse of the UK's biggest Ponzi scheme.

"It took a complex and painstaking investigation over several years to blow away all the smoke screens and ensure Pruthi faced justice."

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