A financier who used the proceeds of a £70 million Ponzi-style scheme to fund a “lavish lifestyle” including private jet and yacht hire and his £2.5 million wedding in Greece has been charged by a London court sentenced to 14 years in prison.
Anthony Constantinou, who ran currency trading firm Capital World Markets (CWM) from Heron Tower in central London, went on the run midway through his trial but was convicted by a Southwark Crown Court jury last month of seven charges, including fraud by misrepresentation, two cases of fraudulent trading and four cases of transfer of criminal property.
Constantinou disappeared from the trial in mid-April and was detained by police in Bulgaria in May when he tried to enter Turkey with a fake Spanish passport. He was released and is still a fugitive.
On Friday, he was sentenced in absentia to 14 years in prison by Judge Gregory Perrins, who described Constantinou as a “morally corrupt person” who founded CWM that was “clearly fraudulent from the start.”
The judge added that Constantinou intended to “finance as luxurious a lifestyle as he could achieve at the expense of others” and that investors’ money was “spent at the whim of the defendant” or used to achieve the promised returns of some investors “the way of a typical Ponzi scheme”.
This trial heard that CWM offered investors a return of about 5 percent per month.
David Durose KC, prosecutor, told the sentencing hearing on Friday that Constantinou was a “determined fraudster” who spit out £5.8 million in CWM sponsorship “in an attempt to mislead investors into believing it is legit”, including sponsorship of Chelsea Football Club and Wigan Warriors Rugby League Club and the London Boat Show.
He also spent £427,000 on hiring a private jet to fly him and his staff to MotoGP races across Europe, €150,000 on a five-day Mediterranean cruise, £600,000 on hire payments over six months for a town house in Hampstead. Constantinou also received £810,000 directly and £156,000 was paid to his wife.
Durose told the court that Constantinou had spent £2.5 million in investor money on his wedding in Santorini in 2014 and £70,000 on his son’s first birthday party.
He added that the fraud had affected more than 300 investors who had lost pension funds and savings, including a woman with cancer who invested money from an insurance benefit into CWM and lost £262,500.
Judge Perrins said Friday that Constantinou’s victims had described “a catalog of misery” as a result of the fraud. “There are countless accounts of lost savings, family homes for sale, devastation, despair and heartbreak,” he said.
The trial was told of the “toxic” work environment – compared to the “Wolf of Wall Street” – created by Constantinou at CWM, where he drank heavily and “floated wads of money”.
Judge Perrins said on Friday that Constantinou “regularly behaved in a crass, arrogant and intimidating manner at work, depending on his mood. He was often drunk at work and did not mind belittling others . . . He was a man who was impressed by the trappings of extreme wealth and assumed others should be too.
Constantinou’s latest prison sentence comes after he was jailed for 12 months in 2016 following a separate trial at London’s Old Bailey, where he was convicted of sexually assaulting two women between October 2014 and February 2015, according to a 2016 City of London police statement .
None other than Constantinou has been charged in the CWM fraud investigation.
David Walbank KC, defense attorney for Constantinou, told Friday’s sentencing hearing for mitigation that his defense team insisted others were involved in the fraudulent scheme and that Constantinou had a “difficult childhood” as his father was shot dead when he was three at an act “which had all the hallmarks of contract killing”.