James Stunt cleared of forgery but will face retrial for money laundering

Socialist James Stunt was cleared of forgery, but a jury in his long-running trial returned no verdict on a money laundering charge.

Stunt, who is the 40-year-old ex-husband of heiress Petra Ecclestone, was one of eight defendants on trial in Leeds in connection with an alleged criminal network which prosecutors say saw £266million sterling deposited in the Bradford gold dealer’s bank account. Fowler Oldfield from 2014 to 2016.

Four of the defendants – Paul Miller, 45; Heidi Shield, 45; Alexander Tulloch, 41, and Francesca Sota, 34 – were cleared at Leeds Crown Court on Wednesday.

Socialite James Stunt arrives at an earlier hearing at Leeds Cloth Hall Court (PA)

Ms. Sota was also cleared of forgery.

But the jury of seven men and four women was unable to rule on the money laundering charge in the case of four other defendants – Stunt; Greg Frankel, 44; Haroon Rashid, 51, and Daniel Rawson, 45 – after deliberating for more than six days.

The jury was released by Judge Andrew Stubbs KC.

Nicholas Clarke KC, prosecutor, told the court that there would be a new trial for these four defendants for money laundering.

Prosecutors had said the eight defendants were part of a scheme to turn the proceeds of crime into untraceable gold.

Jurors heard that between 2014 and 2016 money was brought from across the country to the business premises of Fowler Oldfield and Stunt in London.

It was alleged that the defendants then concealed its origin by washing it through a company bank account and using the proceeds to purchase gold, which was shipped to Dubai.

Stunt struck a business partnership with Fowler directors Oldfield, Frankel and Rawson, after being introduced to them at the Sheffield Assay Office, where he was building a refinery as part of his business plan to manufacture branded gold bars .

Prosecutors claimed that was when Stunt became involved in the money laundering scheme and money began to be counted at his London offices as well as the premises of Fowler Oldfield in West Yorkshire.

Stunt and his personal assistant Sota have been charged with forgery after investigators found a message asking him to ‘forge’ his signature so he could withdraw £320,000 from one of his bank accounts.

The businessman told jurors he thought Sota had permission to “stamp” his signature with his permission.

The defendants who will face a new trial must return to the same court for another hearing on January 27.

As he left court with his girlfriend Helena Robinson, Stunt said: ‘I am innocent. I don’t think they will dare to try me again.

“All those who worked for me were acquitted.

“I’m the only victim. I’ve lost 15 million pounds.

“And that’s all I have to say for now.”

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