A trio of fund managers have been convicted of carrying a large-scale fraud that saw Libya’s sovereign wealth fund lose £46m.
The three men, who managed £822m worth of investments on behalf of the Libya Africa Investment Portfolio (LAIP), defrauded the fund through a series of offshore shell companies.
The fraud came after London bankers Fredrico Marino and Aurelien Bessot set up a Knightsbridge asset manager to make investments on behalf of the Libyan state fund.
The bankers made investments through Swiss banker Yoshiki Ohmura, who helped the London fund managers dishonestly extract fees, in a setup that saw the men gain around £26m.
Those “finders fees” were then laundered through a series of shell companies in the Seychelles and Cayman Islands.
Suspicions were raised following the start of the Libyan Revolution after the Knightsbridge investment fund’s Libyan board members launched an investigation into the fund.
The independent auditor’s investigation led to Marino fleeing to Norway, before the UK’s National Crime Agency (NCA) started an investigation of its own.
A court found both Marino and Ohmura guilty of conspiracy to commit fraud by abuse of position, after Bessot pleaded guilty to one count of fraud by abuse of position or trust prior to the start of the trial.
Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) prosecutor Andrew West said: “These three fraudsters were calculating in committing offences that left the people of Libya out of pocket by approximately £46 million for purely selfish and greedy purposes to fund their lavish lifestyles.”
“They showed a complete disregard for the important position they held to make investments work for their clients who were looking to diversify away from solely oil revenues.”