Following a Serious Fraud Office (SFO) investigation, a man who attracted more than £100 million from investors has been jailed for 14 years.
Timothy Schools was convicted of five counts of fraudulent trading, fraud by abuse of position and money laundering. He had set up the Cayman Islands-registered Axiom Legal Financing in 2009 and secured more than £100 million from around 500 investors.
Schools assured investors that their loans would be securely invested in high-quality law firms to fund no-win-no-fee cases that were very likely to succeed. But the funds were distributed to three law firms (ATM, Ashton Fox and Bracewell's) that he either owned or held an undisclosed interest in.
Schools paid himself a salary of £1 million as well as consultancy fees and personal benefits. Funds were transferred to offshore accounts and trusts and then used to invest in luxury purchases and shares.
The cases that were funded by Axiom tended to fail. But Schools concealed this by arranging the repayment of old loans with new loans so that directors, administrators and auditors believed that loans were being repaid and returns were being made on investments.
The case could act as a deterrent to others who abuse their position of trust in such a wilful manner. The successful outcome for the SFO comes at a good time for the agency, which has gone through a period of turmoil following the recent publication of damaging reviews into its handling of its Unaoil and Serco investigations, where convictions were quashed due to SFO shortcomings.
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