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SFO secures sentences totalling over 13 years for executives behind $500m bank fraud

4 April, 2023 | News Releases

Today at Southwark Crown Court, Nasser Alaghband, the CEO of British steel trading company Balli Steel Plc, was sentenced to six and a half years in prison, while two senior executives received sentences of over three years each.

A Serious Fraud Office (SFO) investigation uncovered how Alaghband orchestrated a $500m fraud in a desperate attempt to keep his failing company afloat. He directed Melis Erda and Louise Worsell to secure bank loans, which they did by creating false contracts for non-existent steel shipments.

These shipping documents were certified by an in-house shipping company, registered in the Cayman Islands, and operated solely by fax machine via Balli’s own Marylebone offices.

After defrauding 20 banks over two years, Balli collapsed in 2013 with debts of $500 million.

The SFO opened its investigation in 2014, gathering information from law enforcement partners in 36 jurisdictions to expose a sprawling, global fraud.

Following a 20 week trial, a jury convicted Erda and Worsell on 2nd February this year on multiple counts of conspiracy to defraud. Alaghband pleaded guilty to one count of fraud ahead of the trial.

This is the fifth case in the last year in which the SFO has secured individual convictions and brings the total number of years handed down in sentences to over 61 years.

Lisa Osofsky, Director of the Serious Fraud Office, said:

“Using a Cayman Islands address, a fax machine, and a stream of blatant lies, these three individuals plied their criminal trade to defraud banks out of half a billion dollars. The information we gathered from 36 different countries means today, the law has finally caught up with them.”