Businessman Graham Dacre admits he was a “classic target” for Norfolk’s biggest-ever fraud - but insists he will continue to trust people.

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The Christian philanthropist has spoken for the first time about how he became a victim in a £12m swindle, which also affected a German church and concluded yesterday after a four-year, worldwide police investigation.

Cemal Esmene, 56, and George Katcharian, 60, conspired to con Mr Dacre out of £12m in 2008, but pleaded their innocence, before being found guilty by a jury at Norwich Crown Court.

Katcharian was also found guilty of a con worth 10m euros on a German church, while Esmene was convicted of laundering the church’s money.

A judge blasted the two fraudsters yesterday as he sentenced them to 11 years each in prison.

Judge Nicholas Coleman told the men told the men: “You were both playing for high stakes and you both lost.”

Mr Dacre, who sold his car dealership empire, Lind Automotive for £108m in 2006, was convinced into parting with the cash, through an elaborate confidence trick.

A Canadian attorney calling himself Frederick Patry phoned Mr Dacre to ask him about his charity work in Norwich and mentioned a possible investment opportunity.

Mr Dacre had been on the look-out for a trading scheme since 2006, after a friend and Christian minister told him about a secret high-yield investment, which he claimed raised funds for humanitarian projects as well as the UN and the World Bank.

Mr Dacre’s interest was sparked by talk of charity work and Mr Patry agreed to visit.

Days later he was put in touch with the men who would go on to con him out of a slice of his fortune.

He said: “These guys ultimately won my confidence. It’s easy to be wise with hindsight. At the time it appeared an amazing opportunity.”

For his investment of 15m euros, Mr Dacre was expecting a return of 90m euros in his first year.

He said: “I was a classic target. I was an entrepreneur, a risk-taker, approachable; I had reason to produce more money.”

For more on the four-year probe into Norfolk’s biggest fraud, see today’s papers.

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