Former ‘entrepreneur of the year’ accused of multi-million pound fraud

Warrington-based Total Asset Finance Ltd – which collapsed in 2011 – was allegedly at the heart of the conspiracy, with H2O Networks, a company that promised to roll out speedy broadband across the UK using the sewer system.

It is alleged that banks were deceived into issuing massive loans to H2O Networks via Total Asset Finance, after the latter produced fake contracts between H20 and its customers.

Elfed Wynn Thomas, 53, George Alexander, 47, Carl Cumiskey, 53, Stephen Dartnell, 58, Kerry Ann Lloyd, 48, Simon Mundy, 48, are all accused of engineering the scam.

The six were excused from sitting in the dock at Southwark Crown Court on Thursday as a plea and case management hearing was fixed for June 12.

Welshman Thomas was awarded Ernst & Young “Entrepreneur of the Year” for the North and Midlands Region in 2010.

Described by Ernst & Young as a “science, technology and communications entrepreneur”, he won recognition for his company i3, a super-fast broadband installation provider.

Both Barclays and KBC Lease (UK) Ltd – an arm of Belgian bank KBC NV – were affected, with the latter allegedly handing over £128m.

KBC have been repaid a portion of their losses, while Barclays – whose level of involvement is unclear – have been fully refunded, prosecutors said.

The allegations relate to a four-year period, between January 2007 and November 2010.

Dartnell Alexander and Lloyd worked at Total Asset Finance, Thomas and Cumiskey worked for H2O Networks Ltd, while Mundy, who worked at KBC Lease UK, is alleged to have approved the transactions in exchange for cash.

Investigators claim the group “dishonestly offered to sell sums ostensibly due to Total Asset Finance Ltd, under contracts which purported to have been… between H20 Networks Ltd and customers and which purported to be assigned to Total Asset Finance Ltd, intending to make gain”.

Earlier prosecutor Will Hays, for the Serious Fraud Office, said: “There are three charges. The first is conspiracy to commit fraud… especially by committing against a bank known as KBC.

“The second charge is a similar offence to commit fraud by false representation against Barclays, another bank.

“The third count is conspiracy to give corrupt payments.”

Mr Hays said lenders were duped into handing over cash after being shown contracts which were “bogus in their entirety”.

The six have been bailed on condition they reside at their home addresses, do not contact witnesses or co-defendants, and notify the Serious Fraud Office of any travel plans.