James Stunt £266m laundering trial starts - court hears cash came in bags - socialite denies offence
A £266 MONEY laundering trial involving James Stunt finally began today after several legal arguments last week.
Stunt, 40, (above from Instagram) and seven other defendants are charged with money laundering cash between January 2014 and September 2016.
Prosecutors claim no legitimate source of the cash, that was taken in sports and carrier bags, to a premises run by Bradford gold dealer Fowler Oldfield, was ever identified.
From January 2014 until September 2016, more than £266million in cash was paid into the Fowler Oldfield bank account, Leeds Cloth Hall Court heard.
ABOVE: Cash and gold seized during the investigation
It was then used to buy gold from two suppliers in Birmingham, Cookson Precious Metals Limited and Metalor Technologies (UK) Limited, the court heard.
Around £46million was also transferred into an account in the name of James Stunt's company, Stunt & Co Ltd, the prosecution said
Prosecuting, Nicholas Clarke QC said it was "blindingly obvious this was criminal cash" being washed through a company to make the funds appear legitimate.
He said: "These defendants then hid its origin by washing it through a company bank account and using the proceeds to buy gold.
"It was a most roundabout and inefficient way of doing business. The cash could have simply been taken to a bank if it was legitimate, but it had to be paid through Fowler Oldfield to hide its true origins and give it a veneer of respectability."
During one month in 2016 an average of £1.7million was paid into the account of Fowler Oldfield almost daily, the court heard.
Stunt is a former husband of Petra Ecclestonen (above from Instagram), daughter of Formula One tycoon Bernie Ecclestone, who had three children with her before they divorced in 2017.
Greg Frankel, 44, Daniel Rawson, 45, Paul Miller, 45, Heidi Buckler, 45, and Haroon Rashid, 51, formerly of Fowler Oldfield, claim the prosecution has been unable to prove the cash was criminal proceeds.
Stunt, Alexander Tulloch, 41, and Francesca Sota, 34, have argued that it did not know whether it was, Mr Clarke said.
They all deny money laundering, while Stunt and Sota also deny forgery.
Mr Clarke said: "The prosecution say this is nonsense… Each of them must at the very least have suspected that the source of the money was criminal in origin – it could not have come from a legitimate source and no legitimate source has ever been identified for it."
West Yorkshire Police launched Operation Larkshot to investigate the large amounts of cash being paid into the bank account of Fowler Oldfield from the company's own premises, the London office of Stunt and another Hatton Garden-based company Pure Nines.
Mr Clarke said of the amounts: "They were in volumes that exceed collections from busy high street banks. The payments were getting much bigger in 2016. On some days, well over a million pounds in used notes was being paid into the Fowler Oldfield account.
Police found between August and September 2016 daily cash deposits ranged between £787,540 and £2,424,380, with an average of £1,706,823, the court was told.
In August and September 2016 cash couriers from all over the country were caught on CCTV visiting Fowler Oldfield, the court heard.
Mr Clarke said it went from a small family business (above) that bought scrap gold to a huge operation.
He said: "There was a dramatic transformation as Fowler Oldfield moved from that legitimate trade to becoming a vehicle for very substantial money laundering of criminal cash.
"From the end of 2013, the bank account of Fowler Oldfield began to receive huge sums in cash deposits.
"It is obvious from the totality of the evidence, and especially the CCTV recordings, that this was a sophisticated clandestine operation to receive criminal cash in such a way that Fowler Oldfield could then persuade NatWest that it was just part of their ordinary business operations."
Mr Clarke said the money laundering spread to the south of the country when Frankel, one of Fowler Oldfield's directors, became a Vice President of Stunt & Co.
He added: "Stunt's offices are higher up in a tower block and it became more difficult to manage the sheer volume of bags of cash that had to be paid into the Fowler Oldfield account, and there were issues over the security of the collections.
"They then got access to a new company with no history at all, Pure Nines. which could also help in the trade side of legitimising the cash."
The trial continues.