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Ponzi scheme victims to share at least £785k compensation

News | Published:

INVESTORS who collectively lost millions to an international Ponzi scheme with strong links to Guernsey have been awarded more than £785,000 in compensation.

Christopher Byrne, who was managing director of Lumiere Wealth, is serving a seven-year jail term for fraudulently selling investment opportunities connected with a global Ponzi scheme run from Miami.

Last year, former financial adviser Christopher Byrne was sentenced to seven years in prison in Jersey for fraudulently selling investment opportunities connected with Providence, which was a major shareholder in Lumiere Wealth.

A total of 10 investors named in the indictment, which saw Byrne convicted on 19 charges in September, will receive some compensation following the order.

Those investors lost £2.9m. in the scheme. However, the amount that could be confiscated from Byrne, which includes proceeds from the sale of a St Brelade home and Castle Quay office space, are limited to those from which he benefited directly.

At the proceeds of crime confiscation hearing, the court heard that a realisable amount from the sales of Byrne’s assets had been agreed at £767,000.

Dublin-born Byrne also has interests in a number of properties in Ireland, and the court heard these were owned through cross-secured investment vehicles.

For the purpose of establishing a realisable figure for compensation from those properties, the court arrived at a figure of £21,600.

While Byrne’s benefit from criminal activity was calculated at almost £1.05m., the investors in court were told that should the sale of his assets return more than the £789,000 – the overall figure – it could be adjusted upwards to £1.05m.

If more than £1.05m. is achieved, the prosecution will apply to have the compensation similarly adjusted upwards, but the amount could also be decreased.

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Royal Court Commissioner Sir John Saunders – who presided over Byrne’s four-and-a-half-week trial – said Jurats Charles Blampied, Jerry Ramsden, Robert Christensen, Elizabeth Dulake and Kim Averty concluded that compensation orders would be made to Byrne’s victims on a percentage basis of the overall total lost.

The highest percentage of compensation went to an 81-year-old partially blind woman who lost almost £1.5m. to the fraudster, to whom the Jurats ordered 50% of the available compensation would be paid.

Smaller investors would receive as little as 1%.

The orders mark a milestone for the investors, who have closely followed the matter since Byrne’s former company, Lumiere Wealth, collapsed in 2016.

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Many lost life-savings and pension pots to the scheme, which saw their investments funnelled into Providence group [a separate company] funds only for it to later be exposed as a global Ponzi scheme run from Miami by Antonio Buzaneli, who has since been convicted of fraud in the US.

Many of the investors were elderly people drawn to the fund by promises of higher-than-average returns. They were not told that the fund was classed as moderate to high risk, or that Byrne was part of a lucrative commission scheme for promoting it.

Investors have previously said that the hopes they had for the money – to help children and grandchildren, to fund retirement travel, to live comfortably in old age – were smashed when the fraud was exposed.

One investor said she hoped to receive some of the money back before she died.

Byrne, who was in court, was given 12 months to pay the compensation. If the money is not paid, he could face another seven years in prison.

Nick Mann

By Nick Mann
author

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