A Brighouse man who swindled millions of pounds from ex-pat investors and their friends had been jailed for conning former miners out of their redundancy money in the early 1990s, a jury heard.
John Hirst, 61, was sent to prison for two-and-a-half years in 1992 after he admitted obtaining money by deception, but following his release and a series of failed business ventures he moved to the Spanish island of Majorca where he became involved in a so-called Ponzi investment scheme.
A jury at Bradford Crown Court was told that Hirst, of Millroyd Mill, Huddersfield Road, had accepted being involved in defrauding the investors through his company Gilher Inc which was registered in Panama and the Seychelles.
Hirst’s previous conviction was revealed at the start of a trial involving his separated wife Linda, 62, his solicitor son Daniel, 35, his step-daughter Zoe Waite, 36, and 70-year-old financial advisor Richard Pollett.
Prosecutor Simon Bourne-Arton QC said it was essentially a case about greed and alleged that John Hirst had used most of the money to fund a “wonderful lifestyle” for himself, his wife and Pollett. .
The court heard that in 2006 Hirst married his second wife Linda in Las Vegas and at a later wedding party back n Majorca, to which some of the investors were invited, the champagne was said to have “flowed all night”.
Hirst is alleged to have carried out the Ponzi fraud as part of a “team” with Majorca-based accountant Pollett, who has denied a charge of conspiracy to defraud.
Hirst’s wife Linda, 62, from Surrey, his step-daughter, also from Surrey, and his son, who lives in Marsh Lane, Leeds, all deny money-laundering allegations.
Mr Bourne-Arton began a detailed opening in which he described how investors in the scheme were promised returns of up to 20 per cent a year on investments made on the Dow Jones Index futures market.
But Mr Bourne-Arton said none of the money was invested as promised and although in the early stages the investors received their interest repayments eventually the money began to run out.
The court heard how some investors put in hundreds of thousands of pounds while others encouraged family and friends to join the scheme.
“John Hirst has always given the appearance of being a successful businessman. He was anything but,” said Mr Bourne-Arton.
“Not only has every business venture he’s been involved in failed, he is, as I have indicated, a convicted fraudster.”
Mr Bourne-Arton said it was the Crown’s case that John Hirst and Pollett worked together as a team.
“It may have been John Hirst’s scheme....his initial idea and he may have benefitted the most from it but Mr Pollett played an essential role,” he told the jury.
Mr Bourne-Arton alleged that John Hirst had used his wife, step-daughter and son to launder some of the money.
“They agreed to do so to a greater or lesser extent,” he alleged.
“We submit that when they received money from John Hirst they knew or at least suspected it was from a fraudulent scheme being operated by him.”
The trial is expected to last several weeks.