‘I never believed fund was a fraud,’ adviser tells court

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Christopher Paul Byrne denies multiple charges of fraudulent inducement to invest and failing to comply with a forthwith notice in a scheme that lost his clients over £2.7 million.

The 50-year-old former managing director of Lumiere Wealth is accused of misleading Jersey investors who bought funds in Providence, a Miami-based investment company that had subsidiaries in Guernsey and other countries.

Investors were told that Providence was involved in debt factoring in Brazil.

As the defence opened its case yesterday, Advocate Olaf Blakeley said the court would hear that Mr Byrne’s main incentive ‘was to make people’s money work harder’ but that he had made ‘errors of judgment’ and he too had lost money to the Providence fraud, Jurats were told.

Lumiere channelled £14 million from local investors into the $150 million US global scam between 2014 and its collapse in the summer of 2016, the court heard.

Roughly a dozen local investors who lost over £2.7 million are named in the indictment against Byrne.

The court has heard that many committed life-savings and pension pots – far more of their total wealth than would normally be recommended – only to lose it all when Providence and Lumiere collapsed.

But yesterday, the Dublin-born defendant categorically denied that he intentionally misled investors about Providence.

Giving evidence in his defence, the father-of-three said he had recommended the fund as he believed it would be to the benefit of his clients, many of whom were pressing him for products with high returns.

He said that although most were not ‘sophisticated investors’, he believed they understood the risks associated with the fund.

‘I understood my role as making it understood, so that non-sophisticated investors could go into it,’ Mr Byrne said.

When it emerged that everyone had lost their money, he said he was ‘gutted’ and wished he could pay them all back.

‘I have lost a lot of sleep over the last 2½ years’, he said. ‘In a perfect world, I would pay everyone back. Some are more affected than others, but everyone is affected.’

He acknowledged that two of the investors ‘did not have the money to lose’ and he had put them into the fund in the hopes of them getting better returns to supplement their retirements.

Mr Byrne told the court he was introduced to Providence when representatives from the fund came to Jersey in 2013.

He said he met Adam Tattersall from Providence’s subsidiary in Guernsey and former Tottenham Hotspur football player Paul Miller, who was there as an ‘ambassador’.

At the time Mr Byrne was still working with his former employer Orbital.

He said the meeting was casual and he wanted to see what kind of people they were. ‘I like to have a feel for people in addition to just due diligence etc,’ Mr Byrne said.

He told the court that initially he did not think the fund would work for many of his clients. ‘At that stage, I was still not sure it was something I would recommend but later, I did come to love the fund.’

Advocate Blakeley took Mr Byrne through the evidence of investors individually.

Where investors have said Mr Byrne told them the Providence was low risk, Mr Byrne consistently denied that claim, and said the investors must have been ‘confused’.

He denied that he ever told investors the fund was ‘as safe as houses’.

‘I would never use that phrase,’ he said.

The trial before Commissioner Sir John Saunders and Jurats Charles Blampied and Robert Christensen continues.

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