|Christopher Sabin & Tobias Ridpath|
Four businessmen plotted together to dupe investors into handing over £7.7m in savings and pensions for so-called precious metals worth a fraction of the price, a court heard today.
Using a misleading website and inaccurate glossy brochure they either cold-called customers with scripted patter or placed ads offering the opportunity to purchase supposedly lucrative metals vital to 80% of the world’s industry.
They are: Christopher Sabin, 43, of Eyot House, Church Street, Shoreham, Sevenoaks.
Tobias Ridpath, 52, of Wellington Square, Hastings.
Nicholas Start, 35, of Spencer Close, Pamber Heath, Tadley, Hampshire.
William Berkeley, 52, of Barrington Court, Chichester Terrace, Horsham.
All four have pleaded not guilty at Blackfriars Crown Court to conspiring to defraud investors by making false representations.
Sabin and Ridpath, who the prosecution say established the scheme have also pleaded not guilty to money laundering.
Prosecutor Mr. David Durose told jurors Denver Trading - started by Sabin and Ridpath - was run from a short-term £860 per month office in the City.
The court was told Start headed a “prolific” brokerage - London Commodity Markets - and Berkeley took over the Swiss branch of the business after the original director quit, claiming the business “stank horribly.”
One typical investor, Cecil McMurray, invested £243,000. “He lost a vast amount of money.”
Another client bought 100 kilos of rare metals in September, 2012 for £39,000 and two-and-a-half years later that investment was worth £285.
The investors did not know approximately 50% of the money they handed over immediately went to the company as a sales commission - halving the investment, the jury were told.
“Not one of them have made a penny and they have lost pension pots and life savings. The losses are in the millions and millions of pounds.
“They were duped into investing,” explained Mr. Durose, who said the fraud lasted approximately one year from Spring, 2012.
Investors were wooed with promises of returns on investments in Rare Earth Metals and Rare Earth Elements, which were vital in engineering and manufacturing.
The court heard Sabin and Ridpath founded the company in the Seychelles on February 23, 2013 and quickly gave it the trappings of a successful business.
“This was all to give legitimacy to a dishonest enterprise. These investors were being ripped-off.
“The huge commissions are utterly inconsistent with any legitimate investments.
“Purchasers were not told about the size of the commissions and some were lied to.”
Only around 15%-20% of investors money ever went towards buying the rare metals.
“There is no resale market for these metals. They were almost useless as an investment.”
The price of such metals has been falling since 2011, added Mr. Durose. “The investors were blatantly lied to.”
Sabin and Ridpath hid behind a nominee director and nominee shareholder and when later quizzed by police claimed they were no more than business development managers and did not run the company.
Their website developer also quit his involvement in November, 2012, unimpressed by Sabin and Ridpath.
By then there were 1900 customer contracts on the system and dozens of sales staff selling rare metals to investors.
Customer were told their investment would double or triple over three to five years, with Denver Trading’s commission a modest 5%.
One investor was even promised a 1000% return in five years, but he and other customers were paying a five-fold mark-up.
The jury heard £5.6m ended up in a Cypriot bank account controlled by Sabin and Ridpath.
The trial is expected to last three months…………