Nicolas Levene jailed for 13 years for ?32m Ponzi fraud
PUBLISHED November 5, 2012
Nicholas Levene, 48, spent more than £18 million supporting his lifestyle of private jets, super-yachts and lavish parties while running a £32 million "Ponzi" fraud.
His victims included Sir Brian Souter and Ann Gloag, the brother and sister who founded the Stagecoach Group, who each lost £5 million, and his friend Richard Caring, the owner of The Ivy and Le Caprice restaurants in London, who was conned out of £10 million.
Levene, a former deputy chairman of Leyton Orient Football Club nicknamed "Beano" because of his love of the children's comic, was a highly successful City financier with an estimated personal wealth of up to £20 million in 2005.
However, a ruinous gambling addiction and an insatiable taste for the high life led him to commit "fraud on a massive scale", tricking his investors out of more than £100 million including lost profits, London's Southwark Crown Court heard.
Passing sentence, Judge Martin Beddoe told Levene he was addicted to "greed and a lifestyle that you did not really have the skills or imagination to achieve".
He said the scale of the fraud appeared to be "unprecedented", adding: "The sums are staggering enough but what is even less attractive is that it has involved so many acts and moments of betrayal of people who were not just clients but many of whom clearly believed they were your friends."
Quoting from a letter written to the court by Levene's father, the judge said: "It is perhaps what your father wrote that struck me as much as anything.
"He described yours as a lifestyle beyond comprehension and understanding explained only by that monster, greed. It is that to which you were truly addicted."
Prosecutor Andrew Edis QC said Levene carried out a "classic" Ponzi fraud, where returns are paid to investors from other savers' money or their own rather than legitimate profits.
"In fact Mr Levene made very little effort to invest money on behalf of his clients and treated the sums he received in effect as his own, using them for whatever purpose he considered at the time to be the most pressing," he said.
Mr Edis added: "He looked after his own lifestyle, schools, houses, yachts, and so forth, and gambled with what was left."
The fraud was ended when investors began proceedings against Levene that resulted in his arrest and bankruptcy.
Mr Caring did not provide a prosecution statement to the Serious Fraud Office's investigators, but Levene was charged with false accounting relating to two payments totalling £10 million made to him by the restaurateur, the court heard.
Trevor Burke QC, defending, said Levene had enjoyed a very successful career over many years but blew a fortune when he became addicted to gambling.
"It was not only other people's money that was lost as a result of his activities, he lost a very substantial sum of his own," he said.
Levene, of Barnet, Hertfordshire, admitted 12 counts of fraud, one count of obtaining a money transfer by deception and one count of false accounting.
The son of a north London electrician, he became a broker at a series of companies and once worked alongside Nicola Horlick, the City "superwoman", at her investment fund Bramdean Asset Management.
He gambled huge sums, reportedly losing £720,000 on a cricket game in 2008 and £250,000 when Chelsea failed to win the Premiership in 2008-09.
In 2009 he laid on a party for one of his sons in a marquee beside the Thames in London featuring a live performance by the girl group The Saturdays.