Financier who used fraud proceeds to fund ‘lavish lifestyle’ sentenced to 14 years

A financier who used the proceeds of a £70mn Ponzi-style scheme to fund a “lavish lifestyle” including private jet and yacht hire and his £2.5mn wedding in Greece has been sentenced to 14 years in prison by a London court.

Anthony Constantinou, who ran foreign exchange trading firm Capital World Markets (CWM) from the Heron Tower in central London, went on the run part way through his trial but was convicted by a jury at Southwark Crown Court last month on seven charges, including fraud by false representation, two counts of fraudulent trading and four of transferring criminal property.

Constantinou absconded from the trial in mid April and was detained by police in Bulgaria in May as he tried to enter Turkey using a false Spanish passport. He was released and is still on the run.

On Friday he was sentenced in his absence to 14 years in prison by Judge Gregory Perrins, who described Constantinou as a “morally corrupt individual” who set up CWM which was “plainly fraudulent from the outset”.

The judge added Constantinou intended “to finance as lavish a lifestyle as he could possibly achieve at the expense of others” and investors’ money was “spent at the whim of the defendant” or was used to pay some investors promised returns “in the manner of a typical Ponzi fraud”.

This trial heard CWM offered investors returns of about 5 per cent a month.

David Durose KC, prosecuting, told the sentencing hearing on Friday that Constantinou was a “determined fraudster” who splashed out £5.8mn in CWM sponsorship “in an attempt to hoodwink investors into believing it to be legitimate” including sponsorship of Chelsea Football Club and Wigan Warriors Rugby League Club as well as the London Boat Show.

He also spent £427,000 on private jet hire to fly him and his associates to MotoGP races across Europe, €150,000 on a five-day cruise around the Mediterranean, £600,000 in rent payments over a six-month period for a Hampstead mansion. Constantinou was also directly paid £810,000 and £156,000 was paid to his wife.

Durose told the court Constantinou spent £2.5mn of investor money on his 2014 wedding in Santorini and £70,000 on his son’s first birthday party.

He added the fraud had affected more than 300 investors who lost retirement funds and savings, including one woman with cancer who invested money from an insurance payout in CWM and lost £262,500. 

Judge Perrins on Friday said Constantinou’s victims had described “a catalogue of misery” as a result of the fraud. “There are numerous accounts of life savings lost, family homes having to be sold, devastation, desperation and heartbreak,” he said.

The trial was told about the “toxic” work environment — likened to the “Wolf of Wall Street” — created by Constantinou at CWM where he used to drink heavily and “brandish wads of cash”.

Judge Perrins on Friday said that at work Constantinou “regularly behaved in a boorish, arrogant and intimidating manner depending upon his mood. He was often drunk at work and thought little of belittling others . . . He was a man impressed with the trappings of extreme wealth and assumed that others should be too.”

Constantinou’s latest jail term comes after he was jailed for 12 months in 2016 after a separate trial at London’s Old Bailey where he was convicted of sexually assaulting two women between October 2014 and February 2015, according to a 2016 City of London police statement.

No individual other than Constantinou has been charged in the CWM fraud investigation.

David Walbank KC, defence barrister for Constantinou, told Friday’s sentencing hearing in mitigation that his defence team maintained others had been involved in the fraudulent scheme and Constantinou had a “difficult childhood” as his father was shot dead when he was three in an act “which had all the hallmarks of a contract killing”.

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