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Adviser whose clients lost £3m is found guilty of fraud

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A FORMER financial adviser was yesterday found guilty of more than a dozen charges of fraudulently inducing clients to invest in a fund which was later exposed as a Ponzi scheme.

Chris Byrne leaves court in custody. Picture: JON GUEGAN (22530398)

Christopher Paul Byrne, the former managing director of Lumiere Wealth, was taken into custody immediately after Commissioner Sir John Saunders announced the verdicts handed down by the Royal Court.

During the four-week Jurat trial the court heard he misled clients about the risky nature of Providence funds, failed to disclose that the fund owned 75 per cent of his company and that he had a lucrative pay deal for bringing money into the fund.

The Old Library courtroom was packed as investors, who collectively lost over £3 million, listened intently to the verdicts.

Some were first-time investors, while others had long relationships with Byrne, pre-dating Lumiere Wealth, which was set up in early 2015.

The charges against Byrne related to investments made by over a dozen local clients between October 2014 and June 2016.

The 50-year-old father-of-three had already admitted a charge of selling the Providence funds while he was not licensed to do so for a period of that time.

Investors gave evidence that they were told they were making low-risk investments, although the particulars of the fund stated it was high risk and suitable only for ‘sophisticated investors’.

Among those who testified against Byrne were an 84-year-old woman and an elderly French couple.

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The court also heard that Byrne had forged a loan agreement with a 79-year-old partially sighted widow.

She told the court she had no idea she was giving him a personal loan of £1 million and had believed it to be a straightforward investment.

Lumiere Wealth, which once held offices in Castle Quay, collapsed after just 18 months in business when US authorities took action against Miami-based Providence and its principal Antonio Buzaneli.

The authorities found that Providence funds – purportedly being used for debt-factoring in Brazil – were actually being used to pay dividends and redemptions to older investors in Providence as well as brokers and subsidiary offices around the world.

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Providence was said to be active in 24 countries and had offices in Guernsey, Hong Kong, Panama and Vancouver among others.

Lumiere funnelled over £14 million from local investors into Providence.

Investors were told roughly two years ago they were unlikely to ever see their money again.

Many said privately they remain baffled as to Byrne’s motivation as he was already a successful financial adviser of many years before he became involved with Providence.

The court heard that he owns three local properties as well as a dozen in Ireland and has other property interests in the UK.

Byrne must now reappear before the court on 21 September when he will be given a sentencing date. Jurats Robert Christensen and Charles Blampied were sitting.

Tania Targett

By Tania Targett
Journalist

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