UK ‘Wolf of Wall Street’ Convicted in £70 Mn Ponzi Scheme After Fleeing Trial
A British court found on Monday a financier, famously known as the British "Wolf of Wall Street," guilty of masterminding a Ponzi-style scheme that defrauded investors of £70 million (US$86.9 million).
Anthony Constantinou, 41 was convicted in absentia after he fled his trial and his whereabouts remain unknown.
He was the former head of Capital World Markets (CWM), which fraudulently advertised remarkable annual returns of 60% on risk-free foreign exchange markets to investors.
Constantinou's abusive treatment of women in his employ, combined with his lavish lifestyle funded by fraudulent financial activities, earned him the nickname of Britain's "Wolf of Wall Street."
From late 2013 until March 2015, CWM enticed clients with false claims that it received preferential prices from foreign markets, guaranteeing investors a profit on every trade, according to the British Crown Prosecution Service (CPS).
Victims were further assured that 90% of their money would be safely placed in a German "segregated account," while only the remaining 10% would be invested and covered by a personal guarantee from Constantinou.
To participate in the get-rich-quick scheme, victims were required to make a minimum initial investment of £50,000 ($62,000), which later increased to £100,000 ($124,000).
However, the promise of earning back more than half of their investment within a year proved enticing. Ultimately, Constantinou's scheme amassed no less than £70 million ($86.9 million) from hundreds of investors.
In reality, CWM did not invest the victims' money in foreign exchange markets. The truth was far simpler and more illegal: Investor returns were paid using funds accumulated from new investors, while the remaining £70 million was squandered on personal expenses.
This operation was a classic example of a Ponzi scheme.
Constantinou was arrested in 2015 by the London Police, who raided his Heron Tower offices in an effort to locate and safeguard as much of the victims' money as possible.
During the later stages of his trial, however, Constantinou managed to escape and is now a fugitive, evading justice for the millions he stole from his investors.
Approximately 450 Nepalese nationals, including retired and active duty Gurkha soldiers, were among his victims, losing almost two and a half million pounds ($3.2 million) to his scam.
The London Police began an extensive investigation into CWM's finances in 2014. Their findings revealed that Constantinou had misused his clients' money to fund his extravagant lifestyle, including his wedding and a CWM launch party.
In line with his fraudulent lifestyle, Constantinou developed a penchant for purchasing luxury vehicles using his ill-gotten gains. Some examples included a high-powered Range Rover, a gunmetal gray Ferrari, and a customized high-powered motorcycle, painted matte black with the proud display of the CWM logo in gold.
Emma Beazley of London's CPS described this as a "callous scam targeting members of the public," stating that many people lost their hard-earned money due to Constantinou's greed and false promises in this fraudulent investment scheme.
Detective Inspector Nichola Meghji described Constantinou as a career criminal driven solely by a desire to make as much money as possible, without regard for anyone else.
However, Constantinou's crimes were not limited to the financial markets. Several women had previously accused him of sexual assault and running his firm in a manner reminiscent of "The Wolf of Wall Street."
In 2016, he was sentenced to 12 months in prison for assaulting multiple women in London, both at and near CWM's offices.
Prosecutors presented evidence that in October 2014, Constantinou forcibly pushed a woman against a glass wall in plain view in the reception area and groped and kissed her without her consent.
Then, in February 2015, while on bail for the previous assault, he grabbed another woman and told her he could "kiss her and do what he wanted with her," according to prosecutors.
He proceeded to forcefully put wasabi into her mouth and later warned her, "Don't ever mess with me..."
During his trial for defrauding his investors, Constantinou was identified as the mastermind and "the only person who knew what was really going on with the company," as stated by the London Police.
Employees at the firm were deceived into believing that their clients' returns came from legitimate investments and that Constantinou was a self-made millionaire.
On Monday, Constantinou was found guilty of seven counts of fraud, fraudulent trading, and money laundering. He is scheduled to be sentenced in absentia on June 9, 2023.
"We are pleased that the jury has seen through his lies and unanimously found him guilty," said Meghji.
However, since he fled after an inevitable guilty verdict, an international arrest warrant has been issued, and a global manhunt to apprehend him is underway.