Operation Wizard Conjures Up Almost £1 Millon In Compensation for Victims

Tuesday, 10 November, 2009

VICTIMS of a complex multi million pound fraud will be receiving almost £1 million in compensation following a successful hearing under the Proceeds of Crime Act (2002).

A compensation hearing at Southwark Crown Court on Friday (November 6) ordered Frazer Bettie, to pay £955,579.34 to victims of the 'Boiler Room' scam, which saw more than 320 people conned into buying worthless shares. A share of the money will be given to victims from across the country.

Bettie, 34, formerly of Dunstable Road, Dagnall, was one of four men convicted in connection with Operation Wizard, a £4 million scam, run from the bedroom of a house in Watford. He was found guilty of Money Laundering earlier this year at Southwark Crown Court and sentenced to four and half years. If he fails to pay the money within six months, he will have to serve an extra four and half years behind bars.

It has been estimated that Bettie benefited from the crime by £1,163,188.38 - however £955,579.34 is the realistic amount that can be claimed from his assets.

Further confiscation hearings against the other three men will be held in March 2010 where further compensation for victims will be obtained. This is likely to be within the region of £300,000 to £400,000.

Detective Constable Jim Frost, of Hertfordshire Constabulary's Fraud Squad said: "This is a fantastic result and will see all the victims of this despicable crime compensated and get back some of the money they lost. Although they will not be receiving all the money they were conned out of, I hope what they will receive can help bring some closure to this traumatic experience."

DC Frost continued: "All the money that Bettie has been ordered to pay and the future funds that will be obtained from the other convicted criminals next year, will go directly to the victims and illustrates Hertfordshire Constabulary's commitment to delivering safety, justice and reassurance to all. We continuously use our powers under the Proceeds of Crime Act to disrupt criminals and to help victims rebuild and carry on with their lives.

"It is really important that people don't fall for scams such as this one. It's very unlikely someone will try and sell you genuine shares over the telephone. If it sounds too good to be true then it really is. You can always check whether the company you are being offered shares in actually exists by logging on the Financial Services Authority's website -www.fsa.gov.uk - or by calling their helpline 0300 500 5000."

Operation Wizard

Operation Wizard was launched by Hertfordshire Constabulary's Fraud Squad following an anonymous call to Crimestoppers in late 2005. Following initial enquiries, officers discovered a 'Boiler Room' fraud was taking place, with connections across the UK, Spain and Italy. This type of fraud is where a company is based outside the UK, and is employed to promote the shares of another company, which are either worthless or of little value. The salespeople use high pressure tactics, often calling people several times a week in order to get them to buy shares.

In this case salesmen, working for DG Advisory, based in Barcelona, Spain, were promoting the shares of NetJet Ltd, a company operating in Hertfordshire. These salesmen would call potential investors from across the UK and offer them shares in NetJet Ltd. They were then told money spent on NetJet Ltd shares would then be invested in Payweb, a secure internet electronic money transfer scheme, based in Italy. This would eventually result in an excellent return for investors when the company floated on the Alternative Investment Market (AIM) and later lead to NetJet Ltd owning Payweb.

In reality, DG Advisory and NetJet Ltd were vehicles for fraud, set up purely to make money for its workers. NetJet Ltd was registered as operating from a prestigious Pall Mall address in London. However, it in fact was operated from a bedroom in Muriel Avenue, Watford. This was the home of Niven Gunaratnam, who was also the director of NetJet Ltd.

Payweb was a legitimate company but has since folded.

In total, thirteen people were arrested in connection with the investigation. However, some were later released without charge but helped the police and the Fraud Prosecution Service (FPS) form the case against the four defendants who have been successfully convicted.

Victims were from across England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. In Hertfordshire, victims were from Ware, St Albans, Welwyn and Codicote.

Inaam Ul Haq, 29, formerly of Byrd Road, Crawley, was sentenced to three and half years imprisonment at Southwark Crown Court after pleading guilty to Money Laundering.

Niven Gunaratnam, 31, formerly of Muriel Avenue, Watford was found guilty of conspiracy to defraud and was sentenced to five and half years.

Nicholas Ailey, 32, formerly of Hazel Close, NW9, was found guilty of conspiracy to defraud and was sentenced to four years.

Between February 2005 and January 2006, Bettie, Ailey, Ul Haq, salesmen for DG Advisory in Spain, promoted shares in NetJet Ltd to 324 investors, mainly elderly people, to a value of £4 million. Despite claiming a vast amount of investors' money would be invested in Payweb, only 20% in total was. 45 per cent of the £4 million was paid to the brokers of DG Advisory.

• Bettie, the owner of DG Advisory, received £802,000

• Ailey was a manager at DG Advisory and received around £240,000

• Ul Haq, a salesman for DG Advisory, received £97,000

Niven Gunaratnam spent the rest of the money on living a lavish lifestyle and when arrested was found to have spent some £230,000 in cash. He had also invested money in various businesses, including a comic book company.

Anyone who feels they have been a victim of a fraud or has information about a suspicious offer can call the Fraud Squad on 0845 33 00 222. Alternatively call Crimestoppers, an independent charity, anonymously on 0800 555 111.

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