Kautilya Nandan Pruthi duped hundreds of victims, including cricketer Darren Gough and actor Jerome Flynn
The corrupt businessman Kautilya Nandan Pruthi, who duped celebrities, sports stars and hundreds of other victims out of ?115m in Britain's biggest Ponzi investment scam, has been jailed for 14 years and six months.
Pruthi was labelled a "professional fraudster" as he was sentenced at Southwark crown court on Wednesday and told he faced deportation to India after he had served his jail term.
Pruthi's associates John Anderson and Kenneth Peacock, who were found guilty by a jury of unauthorised regulated activity, were jailed for 18 months for their part in the fraud.
The former cricketer Darren Gough and actor-turned-singer Jerome Flynn were among 800 people scammed as Pruthi claimed he was one of the richest men in London.
Investors lost life savings after being told they would get huge revenue returns unmonitored by the Financial Services Authority.
Sentencing Pruthi, Judge Michael Gledhill QC said: "You are an extremely intelligent, articulate, sophisticated and plausible liar. In short, a professional fraudster.
"You set up and masterminded what may well be the largest and longest-running Ponzi fraud to come before the courts in this country."
Many investors lost their homes, pensions and life savings, he said.
Gledhill said Peacock and Anderson were as much victims of Pruthi as other investors.
"They trusted you completely, as did everybody else that came into your orbit," he said. "They believed every false representation you made about your scheme ? why would they have invested and then encouraged family and friends to give you their money?"
Pruthi was made subject to a financial report order and the court heard he would qualify for automatic deportation after his release from prison.
Police said parents of disabled children and many well-known people whose names were not disclosed lost money as Pruthi and his associates lived in multimillion-pound homes, drove Ferraris and flew in private jets.
The court was told that at least 585 investors fell victim to the scheme, although the number may be as high as 700.
Even bankers with Merrill Lynch, one of the world's leading financial management companies, were duped into believing Pruthi's lies, according to one source.
Pruthi made ?38m from the swindle over three years while victims lost a total of ?115m.
Pruthi, Anderson and Peacock were arrested in May 2009 after City of London police launched a nationwide investigation into Ponzi fraud.
Pruthi, 41, had already spent much of the cash during half a decade of extravagance. Officers, who say he was Britain's most prolific Ponzi fraudster "by some way", fear that only around ?2m will be returned to his victims.
Pruthi spent hundreds of thousands of pounds a month renting properties in central London along with a mansion in Ascot.
Bentleys, a Ferrari, a Jaguar XKR and a Maserati were purchased before the three were arrested. Pruthi also ploughed some of the millions into the luxury racing firm Apex Motorsports in a bid to impress investors.
Detective Superintendent Benjamin Flannaghan, who led the City of London police inquiry, said Pruthi was a flashy operator.
"You could tell he was an extravagant man just by looking at his dress sense," he said. "He always wore a cravat and only wore brightly coloured clothes and suits.
"He had a shock of long dark hair which was heavily receding. His own defence counsel said in court that he was mesmeric."
A plane Pruthi owned was destined for tragedy. Five people were killed when the Cessna Citation 500 crashed after an engine shutdown in Farnborough, Kent, in 2008.
Pruthi began taking deposits from investors around the world in 2005, offering a headline return rate of 156% per year on investments.
He said he was using funds as high interest loans to distressed trading companies involved in the import and export of goods, whereby these companies would be charged 18% per month.
Investors from Britain, Australia, Singapore, Hong Kong, Thailand and Spain were lured into parting with their cash.
"It is like a spider's web of corruption stretching around the world," Flannaghan said. "There is not a continent that is not touched by it. It was sold to people as a private limited scheme to friends and families. It was anything but."
Before trial, Pruthi pleaded guilty to four specimen counts of obtaining money transfers by deception, one count of participating in a fraudulent business, one count of unauthorised regulated activity and one count of converting and removing criminal property.
Anderson and Peacock were found guilty of unauthorised regulated activity but cleared of fraud and recklessly making a misleading, false or deceptive promise.