Socialite James Stunt accused of being involved in £266m money-laundering scheme

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The ex-husband of heiress Petra Ecclestone has gone on trial accused of being part of a £266m money-laundering scheme

Socialite James Stunt is one of eight defendants charged with money laundering involving depositing cash into the account of Bradford gold dealer Fowler Oldfield.

The cash was allegedly brought into business addresses owned or managed by the defendants between 2014 and 2016.

Jurors at Leeds Cloth Hall Court heard the money was carried in sports bags, carrier bags and holdalls in hundreds of thousands of pounds at a time.

In one case, cash was hidden inside two toy boxes wrapped in paper disguised as a birthday present.

Prosecutors say all of the money was paid into the bank account of Fowler Oldfield.

Five defendants from the Bradford-based company - Greg Frankel, Daniel Rawson, Paul Miller, Heidi Buckler and Haroon "Harry" Rashid - all claim the prosecution is unable to prove that any of the cash was criminal property.

The other defendants, including Stunt, Alexander Tulloch and Francesca Sota, have argued they "don't know whether it was", prosecutor Nicholas Clarke told the court.

He added that it was "blindingly obvious this was criminal cash" and "it could not have come from a legitimate source".

Jurors were told West Yorkshire Police launched an investigation, named Operation Larkshot, which looked into large amounts of cash being credited to the bank account of Fowler Oldfield collected from three sites.

These were Fowler Oldfield's own premises, Stunt's offices in central London, and a new company called Pure Nines in Hatton Garden.

'Well over a million pounds in notes' paid into account

Mr Clake explained the large amounts of cash aroused the suspicions of bank staff in 2014 because "they were of such an amount, on a daily basis, as may come from a Premier League football stadium on a match day or similar size venue or event".

He said the payments started "getting much bigger in 2016" and on some days "well over a million pounds in notes" was being paid into the account.

The account was then referred to police, who found that between August and September 2016 daily cash deposits ranged between £787,540 and £2,424,380, with an average of £1,706,823, jurors heard.

It was later discovered that from 1 January 2014 until 16 September 2016, more than £266m in cash and unknown deposits were paid into the account.

After the cash had been credited to the bank account, it was transferred mainly to two Birmingham gold suppliers, Cookson Precious Metals Limited and Metalor Technologies (UK) Limited to buy gold, the court heard.

A sum of £46m was also transferred into an account in the name of Stunt's company, Stunt & Co Ltd, jurors were told.

Mr Clarke said the money laundering then "went national" as one of Fowler Oldfield's directors, Greg Frankel, became a vice president of Stunt & Co.

Buckler, 45, Frankel, 44, Miller, 45, Rashid, 51, Rawson, 45, Sota, 34, Stunt, 40 and Tulloch, 41, all deny money laundering.

Stunt and Sota also deny forgery.

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