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Norfolk businessman Graham Dacre loses £11.9m in investment fund fraud, Norwich Crown Court told

PUBLISHED: 08:48 14 February 2012 | UPDATED: 13:57 14 February 2012

Mr Dacre was allegedly deceived by the men.

Mr Dacre was allegedly deceived by the men.

© ARCHANT NORFOLK 2009

Norwich entrepreneur Graham Dacre was allegedly tricked out of almost £12m by five men playing on his religious beliefs, a court heard yesterday.

In what is believed to be the biggest alleged fraud case ever tackled by Norfolk Police, the philanthropist fell “hook, line and sinker” for the fraud in the hope of huge returns to fund charitable projects.

Norwich Crown Court heard that other victims of the fraud include a Utah commodities dealer, duped into parting with $900,000, and a wealthy German church, which lost 15m (euros).

Defendants Ian Yorkshire, Alan Hunt, Arthur ‘Trevor’ Ford-Batey, David ‘Fraser’ Roberts and Kevin Brennan allegedly defrauded Mr Dacre, left, of £11.9m. The court was told the Norwich millionaire fell for the fraud in May 2008.

The five men, along with Brennan’s brother, Martin, 40, of Bracken Road, Stockton-on-Tees are also charged with laundering the money, given to them by Mr Dacre.

All men deny the charges.

Mr Dacre, a born-again Christian, was persuaded by Roberts, 62, of Montpelier Road, Brighton, and Hunt, 65, of The Avenue, Poole, into parting with a slice of his fortune, the court heard.

Mark Fenhalls, prosecuting, described how Mr Dacre had paid money into the Liechtenstein Landesbank held by Yorkshire, 61, of Clarendon Villas, Brighton, under the promise his investment would be paid into his Swiss account within four to eight days. The premise was that once in the Swiss account Dacre would make money through a high-yield trade platform.

Mr Dacre even flew out to Zurich in June 2008 to meet the men and open the account with bank Clariden Leu.

But the prosecution claims the account has never been credited with money.

He paid the cash despite warnings from a solicitor friend that the investment scheme was a fraud.

But Mr Fenhalls said the men created an air of respectability and Christian charity to trick him.

The court was told Hunt made claims that he was a barrister, and was financing a charitable project for ex-servicemen.

He also said he was connected to a charity called the Humanitarian Coalition Aid Foundation (HCAF).

While Ford-Batey, 61, of Miles McInnes Court, Carlisle, would use the letters AOE on his emails standing for Angels on Earth.

Mr Fenhalls said the Christian philanthropist had been looking for investment opportunities.

“He was predisposed into believing this sort of stuff,” he said.

According to police and prosecutors, the fraud was also disguised by complex financial language.

Mr Fenhalls said: “Dacre I imagine, would be the first to admit now that he didn’t understand how it would work.”

Approached in April 2008 to invest in the scheme, he signed over the money in May, after meeting in Norfolk with Hunt.

A string of glowing references about Hunt, Ford-Batey, and Roberts by a man claiming to be a Texan pastor called Barry Price, also persuaded him to part with the fortune.

Price said of Roberts: “I have seldom met a more thorough man”, and he described Ford-Batey as “very gifted”.

He said Hunt was “gracious” and that “together they have their act well in place”.

As part of the deal Mr Dacre was told to keep the investment secret, creating a sense of exclusivity.

He was told the investment fund had hundreds of applications a week.

The court also heard that Utah businessman Randall Schreiber was the first victim of the fraud, paying around $920,000 in April 2005.

Hunt, Ford-Batey and Roberts are charged with conspiracy to defraud him and to money launder.

But Kevin Brennan, 55, of Kirkburn, Driffield, Martin Brennan and Yorkshire are not charged over Schreiber.

The New Apostolic Church in Dortmund, Germany was the second alleged victim in December 2007.

But the cases only came to light when Mr Dacre complained to Norfolk Police in late 2008 and a three-year investigation began.

The trial continues.

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