By DAISY SAMPSON [email protected]
Algarve resident Bill Godley has been sentenced to three-and-a-half years in prison in the UK and disqualified from acting as a company director for six years, for his part in a global fraud conspiracy involving more than 250 million Pounds from around 3,000 investors.
Bill Godley, who had most recently been working with his wife Anne in the Algarve based company Prime Wine, was sentenced on August 5 at Blackfriars Crown Court in London, after pleading guilty in 2007 to conspiracy to defraud for his part in what has been described as one of the biggest Ponzi style frauds to be uncovered in the UK.
As a former director of the investment group, Bill Godley worked under the banner of Imperial Consolidated Group between 1998 and 2002.
The fraudulent investment scheme was operated in the UK from a former RAF site in Lincolnshire and used “sophisticated sales techniques, in less demanding regulatory environments, which induced money from investors on the basis that the UK limbs of the business were extremely profitable and worth investing in,” according to a statement from the British Serious Fraud Office (SFO).
The statement continued: “Investors were attracted by the promise of high rates of return and the assurance that their capital was protected…In fact, quite the opposite was true.
“Money was channelled in overheads and expenses, as well as extremely speculative mining interests which investors knew nothing about. Furthermore, investor’s capital investment was not protected by Imperial as the insurance in place only protected the company and not the investors, and the high rates of interest could only be supported as long as new investment was coming into the group. It was a case of robbing Peter to pay Paul and was ultimately doomed to failure.”
Investigations into Imperial began in 2002, after the collapse of the company, and the SFO, in conjunction with Lincolnshire Police, led an investigation into the company which involved interviewing more than 6,500 witnesses from more than 30 countries including, according to British press, Hollywood actor Wesley Snipes and a number of Premier League footballers.
Evidence given by witnesses in court included testimony to the “extravagant lifestyle” led by Bill Godley while part of Imperial.
One witness stated: “Bill took his whole family and various members of the Bahamas office and some clients out to the most expensive restaurant in the Bahamas. Money was no object. His living expenses and those of his family were all paid by the company. His extravagance was unbelievable.”
Another witness told the court: “In my opinion, he (Bill Godley) was unnecessarily spending company money on both the staff and himself.”
According to the SFO, when challenged on a separate occasion about the spending, Godley replied: “Don’t worry, I can put my hand in the till and take what I want.”
In passing sentence, Mrs Justice Gloster said: “On any basis, this is a very serious fraud in which substantial sums of money have been lost by many investors, many of whom have suffered considerable hardship.”
She added: “Were it not for your guilty plea, the starting point would have been seven years.”
In a statement sent to the Algarve Resident this week Bill Godley said: “I never led a lavish lifestyle. Things that have been written about in the papers are very hurtful. The truth never sells papers. Anne (his wife) and Kim, our daughter, were heavily involved in charity work in the Bahamas, just as we continued here in Portugal.”
In relation to his guilty plea made in 2007, Bill Godley said: “In 2005, I asked my legal advisors as to when my negligence became recklessness (as they said I had been reckless) on my part and became criminality, and I was given the wrong advice, borne out by the acquittal of the four defendants. I pleaded guilty on advice from my legal team in July 2007 and then fired them in February 2008.”
He added: “Anne and other colleagues will run Prime Wine and continue their charity support until I am able to return to Portugal. Anne tells me that people around her have been extremely supportive and all have said “it is just not the man””.
Anne Godley told the Algarve Resident on Tuesday: “Bill was left out to hang and as the last man standing in the case, they threw the book at him. How can they refer to him as the British Madoff? We live in a three-bedroom townhouse, have one car and flog wine up and down the Algarve. We work damn hard. The whole thing is unbelievable.”
She added: “I will remain in the Algarve and continue to run Prime Wine and we hope that Bill will be able to come back within 18 months.”
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