A Norwich businessman who was duped out of £12m told yesterday how he still trusted a Christian pastor who helped convince him to invest his money in a mythical trading scheme.

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Christian philanthropist Graham Dacre lost the money in May 2008 when he transferred 15m euros into a Swiss bank account.

Two men on trial at Norwich Crown Court, Cemal Esmene, 56, and George Katcharian, 60, deny conspiring to defraud Mr Dacre and launder the money.

Yesterday Simon Draycott, defending Katcharian, suggested Mr Dacre had fallen for the scam, long before he had met his client.

But Mr Dacre, who sold his car dealership chain Lind Automotive for £108m in 2006, said: “I spoke to George Katcharian. He came on the phone to reassure me, to push me along.

“He was the man behind the scenes.”

Mr Draycott disputed Mr Dacre’s claim, as well as references which praised Katcharian’s intellect.

The references from an American pastor called Barry Price about Mr Katcharian, as well as two other men already convicted of the fraud - Alan Hunt and Arthur Ford-Batey - convinced Mr Dacre he could trust them.

In his email to Mr Dacre, pastor Price claimed he had met the president of Chile, Mikhail Gorbachev’s son and the prime minister of Fiji, as well as running a flying school.

Katcharian was described as a man of huge intellect, and the controller of the trading scheme.

Pastor Price described him as an “intellectual giant”.

But Mr Draycott questioned that assumption and said when Katcharian visited Mr Dacre in Norfolk, he spent his time taking photos of the millionaire’s cars, rather than displaying his intellect.

During the hearing yesterday, Mr Dacre told Mr Draycott: “I object to you suggesting that I am telling lies.

“I am just getting fed up with you asking questions.”

Despite the fact he was tricked, Mr Dacre insisted pastor Price was an honest man.

He said: “I have no reason to disbelieve this man. He is hugely distressed by what went on.”

Mr Dacre invested his funds expecting huge returns, but his money was never returned.

He said: “I had come to the point in being satisfied in these men and much to my lawyer’s displeasure and my accountant’s uncomfortableness I authorised the payment of 15m euros.

“I ultimately ended up believing in people which is something I shouldn’t have done.”

The trial continues.

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