Three people involved in a fraud that targeted UK investors and ex-pats in Majorca have been convicted. Guilty verdicts have been returned at Bradford Crown Court on two of them. Another had already pleaded guilty prior to trial. Two individuals were acquitted of related money laundering charges.
John Hirst, 61, (who admitted guilt) and Richard Pollett, 70, were the main architects and operators of the "Ponzi" fraud. Linda Hirst, 62, was complicit through money laundering. (See note 1 for the offenders' details and charges). Between 2001 to 2009 John Hirst and Richard Pollett were involved in the operation of a "Ponzi scheme" trading as Gilher Inc where, instead of being used to achieve promised growth on the US stock market, investors' money was diverted to support the fraudsters' own lifestyles. The Gilher scheme attracted £10 million. Around £5 million is calculated to have been siphoned off.
Investigation and proceedings summary
The SFO investigation commenced in November 2009 following a complaint by an investor. Working with the SFO on the investigation were the police forces of West Yorkshire and of Surrey. The defendants were charged on various dates during March to July 2011. Pollett was extradited from Spain.
John Hirst pleaded guilty ahead of trial. The trial of the other 4 defendants opened at Bradford Crown Court on 18 June 2012 with HHJ Jonathan Durham-Hall QC presiding. The jury retired on 6 August to consider their verdicts which were all returned by today.
Sentencing will take place on 31 August. Confiscation and compensation proceedings are to follow.
Notes for editors:
a) John Neil Hirst, (D.O.B 11.03.51) of West Yorkshire, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to defraud and two counts of money laundering, contrary to s327(1) and 328(1) of the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002.
b) Richard John Pollett, (D.O.B 05.02.42) of Majorca and Poole, was found guilty of conspiracy to defraud.
c) Linda Christine Hirst, (D.O.B 24.10.49) of Surrey, was found guilty of three counts of money laundering, contrary to s327(1) and s329(1) of the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002. She was also found guilty of one count of evading a liability by deception contrary to s2 (1)(a) of the Theft Act 1978
d) Two other defendants (Daniel Hirst and Zoe Waite) were acquitted of charges of money laundering (Proceeds of Crime Act 2002).
2. John Hirst's background includes serving a prison term in the early '90s for an investment fraud with similar characteristics to the Gilher operation. The target victims in that case were Yorkshire miners with redundancy payments.
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