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Ex-GP Noble trustee fights conviction for £52m pension fraud

A former GP Noble trustee sentenced to eight years imprisonment for his role in a £52m pension fraud has challenged the decision in the Court of Appeal.

Graham Pitcher was convicted in 2011 of conspiracy to defraud for his involvement in the misuse of pension scheme funds managed by GP Noble Trustees.

GP Noble was an independent trustee company based in Nottingham that administered occupational pension schemes. The firm was a subsidiary of Money Portal, which went into administration in June 2009.

Pitcher, who was principal director of GP Noble at the time of the offences, was found to have removed millions of pounds from the schemes’ funds in 2007 and 2008 and reinvested the money in British Virgin Island companies.

The Serious Fraud Office says this was done without consulting the other directors of GP Noble and the funds were used for fraudulent purposes.

But in the appeal court last month defence barrister Siobhan Grey argued that new material which arose during the trial of former Money Portal director and GP Noble principal Tony Morris in 2012 gave grounds for appeal. Morris and an associate, Peter Malstrom, were cleared of fraud charges in July 2012.

Grey said evidence unearthed by the prosecution in Morris’s trial showed Pitcher had been telling the truth in court about a £500,000 payment made in June 2006. She said the payment was crucial to the trial and had been referred to 10 times in the judge’s summing up.

Grey said email evidence also supported Pitcher’s argument that at the time of the disinvestment he believed Morris was still working for Money Portal and therefore he was not acting “behind Money Portal’s back” as the prosecution had alleged.

Morris was disqualified as a director of Money Portal in 2005 but was kept on as a consultant.

Prosecution counsel David Farrer said the jury at Pitcher’s trial was well aware Morris had a continuing relationship with Money Portal but that this was “very different to Morris being perceived as part of Money Portal”. He said the 2006 payment was still “partially corrupt” despite the new evidence.

A judgment will be handed down in due course.

Timeline of GP Noble case

August 2007 

£30m of GP Noble’s pension scheme funds removed from UK-based investment houses and reinvested in a British Virgin Islands company.

April 2008

A further £22m moved from schemes to bonds issued by another company based in the British Virgin Islands.

July 2008

The Pensions Regulator removes GP Noble as trustee of all its schemes and refers case to the Serious Fraud Office.

July 2011

Graham Pitcher sentenced to eight years in prison for fraud. Former GP Noble operations director Gary Cordell is acquitted of criminal involvement.

January 2012

Quentin Russell sentenced to 15 months for fraud and forgery. He was employed to provide investment advice as justification for transferring the funds.

July 2012

Former Money Portal director and GP Noble principal Tony Morris and his associate Peter Malstrom cleared of fraud.


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