The biggest donation in the Lib-Dems history – £2.4million – was swindled by a Scottish businessman from a former Manchester United boss, a court heard yesterday.
Michael Brown, 42, has been accused of stealing €12.7million from Martin Edwards who served as Manchester United’s chairman between 1980 and 2002 before selling his share in the club for a reported £90million.
It is claimed Brown persuaded Edwards into giving him large amounts of cash by pretending to be an international bond trader and assuring him that the money would be untouched in an HBOS account and that they would return healthy profits with no risk.
An official looking HBOS document helped trick Edwards into investing in the Scot.
Brown who is currently on the run, is being tried for nine offences betwen February, 2005 and April 17, 2006. The charges range from perverting the court of justice to three alleging theft of a total of $11,348,003
Martin Edmunds, QC for the prosecution told Southwark Crown Court that Brown used the money to lead an “extravagant lifestyle”. Some of the items he purchased was a $4million private jet, Range Rover, yacht, property in Mayfair and an entertainment system for his house in Majorca.
The items gave the impression that he was a successful business man along with the substantial donation to the Lib-Dems which prosecutors alleged made him look like a “well-connected man”. As well as pursuing his lifestyle Brown also used money to pay back other investors to make it look like they were making profits.
Mr Edmunds said: “He simply never intended that the funds would be used for the purpose of trading bonds or to stay in that account. Mr Brown used the money as his own.”
Judge James Wadsworth, QC, warned jurors not to let Brown’s absence influence their verdicts. He said: “This defendant knew the date of the beginning of the jury becuase he was in court when that date was fixed and announced.”
The trial continues.