Self-styled lord, cronies convicted of fraud in UK

AP News
Posted: Oct 05, 2011 11:13 AM
Self-styled lord, cronies convicted of fraud in UK

A high-living, self-styled lord and five of his cronies have been convicted of defrauding victims of millions of pounds (dollar) by collecting fees paid in advance for loans that never materialized, authorities said Wednesday.

The gang was estimated to have collected more than 4 million pounds ($6.2 million) from at least 51 victims between 2006 and 2009, prosecutors said.

Britain's Serious Fraud Office released details of the case after the last two defendants pleaded guilty. All the defendants had been arrested in 2009.

Edward Davenport, 45, who was ranked one of Britain's richest men, set up a company that claimed to have money to lend for major commercial projects. Davenport owned a five-story, 110-room house that was formerly the embassy of Sierra Leone, and rented it out for parties, weddings and film shoots.

"He lives the high life in Monaco and London, rubbing shoulders with celebrity friends such as Jean-Claude Van Damme, Pink and Fifty Cent," his website boasts.

"He has a jet, beautiful homes and a collection of sports cars which would make any man jealous _ including a Ferrari 360 Spider, an Aston Martin Virage Volante, a Rolls Royce Phantom and a Lamborghini."

Davenport did not claim to be a noble but a "lord of the manor," a title that can be bought and sold.

Davenport, his expression as unchanging as a cardboard cutout, is shown on the website posing with celebrities including Simon Cowell, Vivienne Westwood, Prince Albert of Monaco, Paris Hilton and Al Pacino.

Prosecutors say the fraudsters collected various fees to process loan applications between 2006 and 2009, explaining delays with various excuses but never delivering any funding.

In Austria, two victims had contractors waiting to start work building a leisure resort after the company, Gresham, promised euro34 million ($45 million).

An Indian businessman paid Gresham 285,000 pounds ($439,000) expecting a loan of euro183 million ($244 million), prosecutors said.

Davenport and Martin Riley, 64, were convicted in May and sentenced to seven years and eight months in prison. Borge Andersen, 66, a Danish national, was sentenced to three years and three months in prison.

In a second trial, David McHugh, 53, Richard Stephens, 67, and David Horsfall, 56, pleaded guilty to charges. They are awaiting sentence.

The Serious Fraud Office said it planned confiscation proceedings against Davenport, Riley and Andersen.