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Ex-GP Noble trustee’s appeal turned down over £52m fraud conviction

A former GP Noble trustee sentenced to eight years imprisonment for his role in a £52m pension fraud has had his appeal turned down by 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.

He appealed the decision in December. In a judgment handed down today, the appeal was rejected by Lord Justice Treacy. 

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 Tony Morris in 2012 gave grounds for appeal. Morris and an associate, Peter Malstrom, were cleared of fraud charges in July 2012.

In the judgment, Lord Justice Treacy says the new material “would not have made any material impact on the specific issues to which it was relevant, and thus no impact upon the overall verdict”.

He adds he is unpersuaded by the defence’s argument that the acquittal of Morris renders Pitcher’s conviction unsafe, due to the fact the evidence submitted against both at trial was very similar. 

He says: “We are unpersuaded that there is any tenable argument that the acquittal of Morris in the subsequent trial could render this applicant’s conviction at his trial unsafe.

”Therefore, even standing back and looking at the three grounds of appeal cumulatively, we are satisfied that there is no properly arguable case to be made against conviction. Accordingly, we refuse the application with the effect that the applicant’s conviction stands.”

SFO head of investment fraud Jane de Lozey says: “This case involved the serious and flagrant misuse of vulnerable pension funds. The SFO continues to be alive to the threat of pension related fraud and is working with other agencies to make sure that cases such as this are investigated and prosecuted.”

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