Celebrity Big Brother winner pleads not guilty in Instagram ‘finfluencers’ case

<span>Reality TV star Scott Timlin arrives at Westminster magistrates court.</span><span>Photograph: Jordan Pettitt/PA</span>
Reality TV star Scott Timlin arrives at Westminster magistrates court.Photograph: Jordan Pettitt/PA

A Celebrity Big Brother winner has pleaded not guilty in a case brought against a group of social media influencers accused of promoting an unauthorised foreign exchange trading scheme on Instagram.

Scott Timlin, 36, the former Geordie Shore star known as Scotty T, is one of nine people charged by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) in a crackdown on “finfluencers”.

The defendants include former Love Island contestants and cast members from The Only Way is Essex (Towie) and have 4.5 million Instagram followers between them. They could face a fine or up to two years in prison if convicted.

Timlin and several others of the accused appeared at Westminster magistrates court in London on Thursday over charges that they were paid to promote the risky investments on the Meta-owned social media platform.

The FCA alleges that, between 19 May 2018 and 13 April 2021, Emmanuel Nwanze, 30, and Holly Thompson, 34, used an Instagram account (@holly_fxtrends) to provide advice on buying and selling contracts for difference (CFDs) when they were not authorised to do so.

CFDs are a high-risk investment product used to bet on the price of an asset, in this case the price of foreign currencies, and the financial watchdog says 80% of customers lose money when investing in CFDs. It has imposed restrictions on how they can be sold and marketed to retail customers.

The FCA alleges that Nwanze paid seven reality TV stars – Timlin; the former Love Island contestants Biggs Chris, 32, Jamie Clayton, 32, Rebecca Gormley, 26, and Eva Zapico, 25; and the Towie stars Lauren Goodger, 37, and Yazmin Oukhellou, 30 – to promote the @holly_fxtrends Instagram account to their millions of followers on the platform.

All nine face one count of issuing unauthorised communications of financial promotions, an offence under the Financial Services and Markets Act 2000 that is punishable by a fine and/or up to two years in jail.

Timlin appeared in person at Westminster magistrates court alongside Oukhellou, Nwanze and Zapico. He pleaded not guilty to one count of unauthorised communications of financial promotions. Thompson, who appeared via video link alongside Goodger, also pleaded not guilty.

Nwanze, who also faces one count of breaching the general prohibition under the 2000 act against running an unauthorised investment scheme, pleaded not guilty to both charges. The other defendants provided no indication of their pleas.

The Sun reported that Love Island’s Chris, Clayton and Gormley had been due to appear on Thursday but their cases had been adjourned until 3 July.

A trial preparation hearing has been set for 11 July at Southwark crown court and all nine have been granted unconditional bail until then.

The FCA has asked people who believe they have suffered loss due to the scheme to get in touch with its consumer contact centre on the freephone number 0800 111 6768.