Jail for six in HBOS fraud case

David Mills and Lynden ScourfieldImage copyright
Thames Valley Police

Six former financiers have been jailed for their part in a bribery and fraud scandal.

The group carried out a £245m loans scam and spent the cash on prostitutes and luxury holidays.

The six, including two former HBOS bankers, were this week found guilty of bribery and fraud that cost the bank’s business customers and shareholders hundreds of millions of pounds.

Some business owners caught up in the fraud saw their companies collapse.

The bankers were bribed to push businesses to use a business services company, which claimed to be experts in running companies.

Many of the businesses were perfectly sound and had no need of help, but were told their relationship with their bank would be in jeopardy if they did not agree to use Quayside Corporate Services, run by David Mills and his wife Alison.

The misdeeds took place between 2003-07.

Lynden Scourfield, a former HBOS manager, pleaded guilty to six counts including corruption.

Five other defendants, including the so-called turnaround consultants, were also convicted.

HBOS: A highly unusual case

In exchange for bribes, Scourfield told customers to use the turnaround firm.

Mills, 60, bribed Scourfield, 54, with expensive watches, sex parties and, the court heard, “boys’ jollies”.

These were given in exchange for loans which allowed Mills and his associates to access high consultancy fees.

Scourfield was jailed for 11 years and three months while Mills was given 15 years at Southwark Crown Court on Thursday.

‘Bling and swag’

Judge Martin Beddoe said Scourfield, who had been convicted after pleading guilty at an earlier trial last year, “sold his soul” to Mills in exchange for “sex, for luxury trips … for bling and for swag”.

Michael Bancroft, 73, was jailed for 10 years, former HBOS manager Mark Dobson, 56, for four-and-a-half years, and John Cartwright, 72, for three-and-a-half years for their parts in the in the fraud.

Mills’s wife Alison, 51, also played a major role in the corruption and was sentenced to three and a half years.

One other defendant, Jonathan Cohen, was acquitted at the trial which finished this week after four months.

The CPS special prosecutor, Stephen Rowland, said the case was one of the largest and most complex the special fraud division had ever prosecuted.

“It involved millions of documents, a lot of the material we had to look at was electronic and of course in this day and age the capacity for electronic media is huge,” he said.

Sex parties

Businessmen Bancroft and Mills arranged sex parties, exotic foreign holidays, cash in brown envelopes and other favours for Scourfield between 2003 and 2007.

In exchange for the bribes, Scourfield would require the bank’s small business customers to use Quayside, the firm of consultants run by Mills and his wife Alison.

But far from helping turn businesses around, Mills and his associates were milking them for huge fees and using their relationship with the bank to bully the business owners and strip them of their assets.

In cash fees alone, according to prosecutors in the trial, £28m went through the accounts of Mills, his wife and their associated companies.

But the true value to Mills of the corrupt relationship with Scourfield was much greater.

“What Scourfield gave Mills in addition to fees was the opportunity to take control of the various businesses and, in some cases, to acquire ownership of them,” prosecutor Brian O’Neill QC told the court.

“Mills and his associates used the bank’s customers and the banks’s money dishonestly to enrich themselves,” he said.

A special report about the case was broadcast on BBC Radio Four on Tuesday 31 January at 20:00.

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