Imperial directors cleared of running £150m Ponzi scheme

Investment group executives acquitted after nine-month fraud trial.

Two businessmen accused of running a £150m Ponzi investment scheme, which defrauded thousands of wealthy investors, have been acquitted after the jury failed to reach a verdict at Blackfriars Crown Court.

The two directors of Imperial Consolidated, Lincoln Fraser and Jared Brook, were charged by the Serious Frauds Office (SFO) with fraudulent trading and conspiracy, but were cleared on Monday after a trial lasting almost nine months.

This was the third attempt by the government to prosecute them after two earlier ones failed over a period of eight years. One of the earlier efforts ended in a stalemate, while the second had to be abandoned due to legal errors.

Fraser and Brook were acquitted of one count of conspiracy to defraud, between 1998 and 2002, while the jury could not reach a decision over the remaining counts, including that of fraudulent trading.

The third co-defendant in the case, Bill Godley, had in 2007 pleaded guilty to a charge of conspiracy to defraud. He is to be sentenced soon and may face three years in jail. The jury however had not been told of his confession.

SFO director Richard Alderman said no more attempts would be made to prosecute the two Imperial executives.