A managing director siphoned more than £280,000 of his employer’s funds into three business accounts of a friend, a court heard.
Adrian Platt, of Crosthwaite Gardens, Keswick, was jailed for four years this week for a scam stretching back six years.
The defendant, aged 55, had denied the “brazen fraud” and claimed that his pal had been legitimately paid to provide valuable stress counselling.
But his story was rejected by a jury at Liverpool Crown Court who took just 20 minutes to find him guilty of three counts of fraud totalling £283,645.
The alarm was raised by a company employee who turned whistleblower. against the boss.
Judge David Potter accepted that Platt had been “under pressure” at work, but told him that instead of seeking help from his employers: “You simply decided you should be financially compensated for the way in which you perceived you were treated and took to fraud to accomplish this.
“I am satisfied you, as the creator of the fraud, stood to gain most by it,” Mr Potter told the defendant.
Platt had “abused” his position as managing director to allow the fraud to go undetected and it would have continued had it not been for a whistleblower in the firm, the court heard.
The court was told that Platt had raised false purchase orders while working for his employers, Befesa Salt Slags Ltd (BSS), based in Whitchurch, Shropshire.
In turn, his friend, Bernard Giam, a well-known martial arts expert from Merseyside, produced invoices claiming his companies had supplied “environmental consultancy services” to the BSS. Platt authorised payments which, over six years, accounted for more than 90 per cent of the total income of Giam’s three firms – most of which Giam then withdrew in cash, the jury heard.
“The court is satisfied that a significant proportion of that cash was handed back to you Adrian Platt for deposit into your various personal accounts,” said the judge.
Jailing the two men Judge Potter said: “You, Adrian Platt, supplanted your considerable salary, bonus and car allowance, with cash stolen from your employer.
“And you, Bernard Giam, incorporated two companies for the principal purpose of receiving payments for services which you simply didn’t supply.
“It was a brazen fraud. It was cleverly disguised by the false accounting practises.
“And when challenged, you, Adrian Platt, came up with an account which was literally incredible and one which the jury had no hesitation in rejecting utterly.”
“You sought to develop an elaborate story of a culture at BSS in which you were under such incredible stress that you needed external help.
“You claimed that you couldn’t turn to your employers for help out of embarrassment at needing help for stress and fear that a stressed MD would be soon shifted out of the way causing you to be made redundant.”
He said the evidence revealed otherwise and the company was supportive of its employees.
The judge said Giam had been ready to accept the offer of a hand in the fraud in return for a share of the fraud.
He jailed Platt for four years and Giam, of Navigation Wharf, Liverpool, for 40 months.
They had both been convicted of three offences of fraud after a trial.
Arthur Gibson, prosecuting, told the jury that Befesa Salt Slags Ltd was involved in the processing and recovery of aluminium from a waste product in the aluminium industry.
The company was part of the Spanish-based umbrella company Befesa.
Platt was appointed as managing director of BSS on annual salary of just over £100,000 year in October 2002. He eventually left the company in May 2017.
His successor tasked with a review to reduce costs discovered payments totalling £282,645 to three linked companies “for precisely nothing.”
The police were called in and it was found the one director and shareholder of the three companies was Giam. Mr Gibson said that in reality Giam had provided no services to Platt or BSS – “the invoices were a complete scam.”
The Whitchurch plant was closed down in 2020 leading to redundancies.
Judge Potter said there was no doubt Platt’s fraudulent activities as MD impacted on the profitability of the plant.
“But there were many other financial and managerial decisions for which, in hindsight, you have been criticised, decisions which may indeed be highly-questionable but for which you have not faced criminal proceedings.”
Judge Potter said that both men were of previous good character and pointed out that Giam was “undoubtedly” a person who had helped countless others in Merseyside for many years.
“You set a benchmark for personal growth and spiritual development that is admired by many and acted as an inspiration to many. You have served many communities and done much to help others charitably.”
He added: ”But the jury found what you had disguised from so many for so long – that you fell into the temptation of allowing yourself to be used as a vehicle for a significant fraud for which you, in turn, received substantial financial benefit.”
Paul Williams, defending, said that Platt had previously led a blameless life and had been regarded as “honest and decent” and his current boss would continue to employ him if he was not jailed.
“I suggest the course of conduct was a total aberration in his character and personality. He has a serious medical condition requiring long term treatment.”
He said Platt had been under a lot of stress and after the company’s financial director left he found himself having to make financial decisions when he was essentially an operations man.
Giam’s barrister Eric Lamb said he is a family man with a one-year-old son and was looking after his elderly father following the death of his mum in March.
There had been no lavish lifestyle and the case involved a joint enterprise.
The court heard that Giam had to endure the closure of his martial arts business when the pandemic made face-to-face training impossible.