Alex Hope, who used over £2m of investors’ money to fund his lifestyle, has pleaded guilty to a charge of perverting the course of justice.
The charge relates to his conduct following the imposition of a restraint order back in 2012 and a confiscation order in 2016, arising from criminal proceedings brought by the Financial Conduct Authority (“the Authority”).
Mr Hope was originally convicted of fraud and operating a collective investment scheme without authorisation in January 2015 following a prosecution by the Authority and was sentenced to a total of seven years’ imprisonment.
Over 100 investors entrusted Mr Hope with over £5.5 million, which he assured them he would trade successfully on the foreign exchange markets. However, Mr Hope had vastly exaggerated his trading abilities and the returns he was making. He had in fact being using his investors’ money to fund his lifestyle. The court heard that he had spent millions of pounds on Rolex watches, designer clothes and gambling at casinos across the world. Mr Hope most famously hit the headlines by splashing £200,000 on champagne in a nightclub in just one evening.
Mr Hope used doctored copies of statements from his trading account to mislead investors. As a result of this deception, he continued to attract investors, with new money coming in used to pay those who wished to withdraw their funds.
In sentencing, HHJ Taylor told Mr Hope that ‘this was a Ponzi scheme, you were trading little money, making substantial losses and spending the money on yourself.’
In February 2016, Southwark Crown Court ordered that Mr Hope should return almost £2.65 million to the investors who had invested in the fraudulent scheme he established. He was also made the subject of a confiscation order in the sum of £166,696. Mr Hope was told that unless he paid the order in full within 3 months, he would face a further twenty months’ imprisonment in default, consecutive to the seven years he was already serving.
Mr Hope was required to repay the sum by May 2016 but by September that year, he had only paid £1,000 of the £166,696 ordered. The Crown Court duly sentenced him to a further 603 days’ imprisonment.
However, the ordeal was not quite over for Mr Hope. In November 2017, the Authority charged him with perverting the course of justice in relation to his actions concerning the restraint order in 2012 and the confiscation order in 2016. He pleaded guilty to those charges and currently awaits sentence.
This case clearly demonstrates the range of options the Authority has in its Enforcement toolkit and that it has the resources and the willingness to use them.