2015 – I’ve served my time in prison, which can only be described as a barbaric experience – and I still maintain my innocence. I ask that you read the facts and then make your own judgement.
These are the facts:
I started the business cf Business Telecom Voice & Data Solutions, some 20 years ago, with my wife, selling, installing and maintaining business, office telephone systems – NEC, PANASONIC, SIEMENS, LG & BT.
We had a call centre that rang businesses to see if they were looking at changing their telephone system – we purchased databases from Experian and Yell. Our experience showed that we had to ring 30 Businesses to gain one appointment.
Sales People would then sit an average of 6/8 appointments to gain 1 sale. The sales person would sell the benefits of a new system, and the customer would decide if it was right for them. Many customers were customers for years and would come back as and when they wanted to expand or upgrade.
The overwhelming majority of potential businesses with whom we saw or spoke had no interest in what we had to offer, and chose not to proceed.
Our ‘Sales Tools/offers’ were:
- We could upgrade the customer’s lines from analogue to ISDN digital FOC –BT at the time were typically charging £399.00+ vat.
- We could rent/lease a system to the customer, and we would cover the first year of the lease by offering a 12 month rebate. There would be no deposit or installation charges.
- By signing up to one of our recommended carriers, customers could obtain discounts every year on their line and call charges.
In the main, our customers (all business) chose to lease their equipment, as there were many benefits such as spreading the cost and tax efficiency.
My company once we received the order paperwork from the sales person would ring the customer to arrange a convenient date for installation, and then send a welcome pack (recorded delivery) which included copies of all contracts.
The lease companies we used included; GE Capital, Investec, Siemens Finance, Bank of Scotland, BNP Paribas, Grenke, ING.
The customer would sign a lease contract and pay the lease company every month, the industry standard lease for telephone equipment was 7 years, and the lease company would pay my company once we had installed the equipment to the customer’s satisfaction and only once they had themselves rang the customer to ensure they were satisfied with the installation and fully understood the terms of the contract. The lease company then also sent copy contracts. A number of witnesses at trial claimed they had not received these copies, or had simply filed them without reading them.
As a responsible supplier, if a customer had misunderstood the deal and decided against going ahead, we would simply cancel or ‘unwind’ the deal – this is entirely normal within the leasing industry.
In 2005, I recruited Paul Temple a mature experienced business man as Managing Director – he put together a business plan to grow the company – the intention was to develop the business to achieve a £15m turnover within 5 years. In 2009, when I had no choice other than to place the company into voluntary liquidation, the company employed 87 staff, achieved an annual turnover of £6.8m, and held 3200 customer contracts. We had invested heavily in the future of the company and had purchased a 13,000 sqft office in Great Yarmouth. I was proud of the company we had built from nothing.
As the business grew, the number of customers who apparently misunderstood their deals grew in proportion to the number of deals written, ie approx. 1.5% of total deals.
On 29 February 2008, Norfolk Trading Standards raided the company premises and seized 12 customer files and advised that they had started a criminal investigation. In November 2008 Trading Standards obtained a POCA Restraint Order against me which prevented me from dealing with my own assets.
Our leasing partners advised that at that time of financial crisis/credit crunch, banks collapsing etc, a great many businesses were trying to cut back on their expenditure and would say almost anything to extract themselves from their financial obligations.
My then lawyers appealed and failed, however the Single Judge stated that it was wrong of the Trial Judge to describe me as the ‘architect of the fraud’, friends lent me the money to re-appeal and this also failed. I say both sets of lawyers were incompetent and substandard.
In 2012 Trading Standards claimed I had benefited from the alleged crime by some £1.3m and my then lawyers advised me I had no grounds for appeal.
On 31st August 2012 I launched my own appeal against the confiscation, there have been 3 hearings for this appeal and the final one was 10 December 2014: The Court of Appeal agreed that Trading Standards and the Judge at Ipswich Crown Court had used the wrong legislation, it was wrong to lift the corporate veil as the company was not set up as a device for fraud: 98.5% of contracts were not complained about by customers, and that as I had received no direct benefit, my personal benefit figure should only be 1.5% of my salary (£7900.00) for the period in question. http://www.suffolkfreepress.co.uk/…/fraudster-wins-appeal-over-money-he-m
- How does this chime with me being involved in a conspiracy to defraud?
- The prosecution & defence lawyers and Crown Court Judge whom I trusted completely were all negligent in that they all got something as fundamental as using the correct legislation wrong – what else was wrong? In any other profession this would be called a conspiracy…
- I have lost my business, home and served time in prison for £7900.00, the devastation to my family is unquantifiable.
- Would I have been involved in/approved of a miselling scandal for £7900.00 over a 5 year period?
- If Trading Standards had not obtained, or had agreed to vary (as requested) the Restraint Order, then I could and would have ‘unwound’ the complained about deals in the normal course of business – this would have placed those customers in the position they were in before signing their lease contracts.
- If Sales people hadn’t lied and customers had looked at their contracts before signing them, this ‘fraud’ could not have taken place.
- In sending recorded delivery copy contracts my company could not have done more to ensure that these business people understood their written contract, and these ‘victims’ could have also prevented this by looking at what they were signing to agree, and could have taken the time to read what was sent to them recorded delivery.
Evidence that has recently come to light shows that at the time of making the Restraint Order application, Trading Standards were investigating pre-POCA events, this means that the Restraint Order was obtained illegally. As my trial lawyers and then privately funded appeal lawyers didn’t pick up on this, they have blown my chances at the Court of Appeal (you get two), so my only option is now to make an application to the CCRC, which my new lawyers are drafting and which may take years to fruition.
The sole purpose of this article is ‘balance’ the position, often articles in the press are written for dramatic/scandalous sensationalist reasons, and whilst not necessarily untruthful, they certainly do not present the full picture – the trial received front page coverage on numerous occasions with large photos of me in the EDP the main East Anglian paper. Winning my confiscation appeal received freepress coverage.
I’ve never shied away from the press and even agreed to a BBC interview which was shown the night I was ‘sent down’ – whilst I am ashamed that there are ‘victims’ of a fraud that involved my company, I’ve nothing to hide.