James Stunt’s ‘vast money-laundering enterprise’ is likened to plot of Hollywood classic The Sting

James Stunt’s ‘vast money-laundering enterprise’ is likened to plot of 1970s Hollywood classic The Sting: Court hears how Petra Ecclestone’s ex used legitimate business as a ‘cover’ to turn £266million of criminal cash into gold

  • A massive money laundering operation was likened to the plot of The Sting
  • Socialite James Stunt and his seven co-defendants had allegedly conspired to develop a believable ‘cover story’ for their money laundering operation
  • Prosecutor Nicholas Clarke said that the group turned £266 million in criminal ‘street cash’ into gold

The massive money laundering operation allegedly involving socialite James Stunt was today likened to the plot of the Hollywood classic The Sting.

In the movie starring Paul Newman and Robert Redford, large amounts of cash are used in an imaginative ‘long con’ sting operation against a target who wouldn’t realise he had been tricked at the time, a jury was told.

A talented group of con artists set up a fake high stakes betting club to pull off their brazen plan in the 1970s film.

In similar vein Stunt and his seven co-defendants had conspired to develop a believable ‘cover story’ for their money laundering operation that temporarily fooled banks and other reputable companies they dealt with, said prosecutor Nicholas Clarke, KC.

The massive money laundering operation allegedly involving socialite James Stunt was today likened to the plot of the Hollywood classic The Sting. Pictured, Stunt outside Cloth Hall Court, Leeds, on November 22

The massive money laundering operation allegedly involving socialite James Stunt was today likened to the plot of the Hollywood classic The Sting. Pictured, Stunt outside Cloth Hall Court, Leeds, on November 22

A talented group of con artists set up a fake high stakes betting club to pull off their brazen plan in the 1970s film The Sting (pictured)

A talented group of con artists set up a fake high stakes betting club to pull off their brazen plan in the 1970s film The Sting (pictured)

In the movie starring Paul Newman and Robert Redford, large amounts of cash are used in an imaginative 'long con' sting operation against a target who wouldn't realise he had been tricked at the time, a jury was told

In the movie starring Paul Newman and Robert Redford, large amounts of cash are used in an imaginative ‘long con’ sting operation against a target who wouldn’t realise he had been tricked at the time, a jury was told

In similar vein Stunt and his seven co-defendants had conspired to develop a believable 'cover story' for their money laundering operation that temporarily fooled banks and other reputable companies they dealt with, said prosecutor Nicholas Clarke, KC. Pictured, The Sting

In similar vein Stunt and his seven co-defendants had conspired to develop a believable ‘cover story’ for their money laundering operation that temporarily fooled banks and other reputable companies they dealt with, said prosecutor Nicholas Clarke, KC. Pictured, The Sting

They claimed large sums of cash being paid into the NatWest account of Bradford-based gold dealer Fowler Oldfield was largely from legitimate trade with Asian jewellers.

But Mr Clarke said this was a ‘front’ and a ‘cover story’ for what was really happening — turning £266 million in criminal ‘street cash’ into gold.

The apparently legitimate and well-established Bradford business was the ‘front’ for laundering the dirty cash and the company set up by Stunt to manufacture branded gold bars was the ‘perfect foil,’ he said.

Stunt, the ex-husband of heiress Petra Ecclestone, and his colleagues wanted to refine gold for the ‘prestige’ but were ‘completely clueless’ in how to do it, Leeds Cloth Hall Court heard.

In reality there was no significant trading with jewellers, the millions of pounds in cash came from the criminal gangs in Manchester, Liverpool, Glasgow and London.

Stunt, the ex-husband of heiress Petra Ecclestone, and his colleagues wanted to refine gold for the 'prestige' but were 'completely clueless' in how to do it, Leeds Cloth Hall Court heard. Pictured, Stunt outside Cloth Hall Court on November 22

Stunt, the ex-husband of heiress Petra Ecclestone, and his colleagues wanted to refine gold for the ‘prestige’ but were ‘completely clueless’ in how to do it, Leeds Cloth Hall Court heard. Pictured, Stunt outside Cloth Hall Court on November 22

The international money laundering operation — described as the biggest in English legal history — was being masterminded by a man called Shahid Qadar who arranged for the cash to be paid into the Fowler Oldfield NatWest bank account and gold to be sent out to Dubai, the court heard.

Couriers who dropped off the cash in bags have already been convicted of money-laundering, the jury was told.

Mr Clarke said there was ‘no legitimate business at all’ and the ‘long con they were all involved in has really unravelled.’ 

He said the defendants claimed not to know it was criminal cash but they were all public school or grammar school educated and ‘by no means stupid.’ 

While ‘how fabulously wealthy James Stunt is might explain why there is so much money about.’ Mr Clarke added: ‘Money laundering is an illusion, it’s practising the art of deception.’ 

In that context he said Stunt produced a photograph of himself with the then Prince of Wales, now King Charles, without any explanation of why it was produced in his defence.

He said: ‘What was the purpose of it?’ Adding of Stunt’s days in the witness box: ‘He dropped so many names we lost count.’ 

Mr Clarke said there was 'no legitimate business at all' and the 'long con they were all involved in has really unravelled.' Pictured, Stunt outside Cloth Hall Court, Leeds, on November 22

Mr Clarke said there was ‘no legitimate business at all’ and the ‘long con they were all involved in has really unravelled.’ Pictured, Stunt outside Cloth Hall Court, Leeds, on November 22

Mr Clarke described Stunt’s Mayfair office as a ‘plush Bond villain style lair.’ VIPs were invited there but not to the room where £28million of cash was counted.

He said staff at Stunt and Co had to ask why so much cash had to be counted at their office and transferred out.

‘It all makes no sense at all,’ he said.

Adding: ‘Not one of these defendants can provide a source for the cash.’ 

Heidi Buckler, 45, Greg Frankel, 44, Paul Miller, 45, Haroon Rashid, 51, Daniel Rawson, 45, Francesca Sota, 34, Stunt, 40, and Alexancer Tulloch, 41, all deny money laundering. Stunt and Sota also deny forgery.

The case continues. 

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