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Police follow broker fraud cash trail to the Gold Coast

Police believe that a senior financial adviser jailed for six years in 2004 for defrauding clients out of more than 1.75m may have hidden some of the money away in Australia.

Michael Hart, formerly managing director of Lucas Fettes, admitted a series of theft charges when he appeared before Norwich Crown Court but following his jailing, police have been trying to discover where the money went.

Now,with the help of the Australian federal police, they have followed a trail of electronic bank transfers and emails to Australia’s Gold Coast, near Brisbane in Queensland.

Documents filed in a Brisbane court claim that Hart gave sums in excess of 200,000 to a woman from the Gold Coast called Kelli Lowe, whom he met at London strip club Spearmint Rhino in 2002.

It is believed that Hart wired the money to Lowe and her husband when he feared he would be caught.

It is also alleged in the court documents that the money was used by the Lowes to build a luxury home on the Gold Coast. Moves are now under way to freeze the Lowes’ assets pending further enquiries.

At his trial, Hart admitted that he had stolen the money from 21 investors over a 12-year period, working first as a sales manager for insurance broker Heath & Co and later as managing director at Lucas Fettes Partners.

It was made clear before the court that all his transactions were conducted privately and that the companies for which he worked had no knowledge of what he was doing.

The court heard that Hart and his family had lived a lavish lifestyle and that, at the time of his jailing, less than a third of the money that he stole had been recovered.

Evidence was given at the trial that Hart simply diverted funds given him by his clients into his own bank accounts.

He was able to keep the swindle going by paying interest to unsuspecting clients out of his accounts and also by persuading clients to “reinvest” at maturity.

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