A fraudster movie producer faces jail after stealing greater than £150K from victims internationally – by claiming hyperlinks with Princess Anne, Hillary Clinton, Denzel Washington, Gordon Brown and the Dalai Lama.
Lois Bhagwan, 56, enticed her victims with guarantees of excessive returns, investing in her charitable undertaking’s high-interest fund.
However a tiny proportion – round £10,000 – of the cash paid over has ever been returned – with many victims left empty handed.
Lois Bhagwan, 56, pictured on her advertising materials, enticed her victims with guarantees of excessive returns, investing in her charitable undertaking’s high-interest fund
She falsely claimed to have hyperlinks to the likes of Princess Anne and several other different celebrities
She additionally falsely used Hillary Clinton’s title when making an attempt to deceive her victims
Throughout her five-week trial at Oxford Crown Courtroom, Bhagwan claimed hyperlinks with heads of state, Royalty, ambassadors and Hollywood A-listers.
She has now been discovered responsible of seven counts of fraud. She was acquitted of three different fees.
Remanding her in custody, Decide Ian Pringle QC mentioned: ‘You have been discovered responsible by this jury of seven critical fees of fraud by misrepresentation or the equal.
‘The sentence I’m going to cross on you have to be one among fast imprisonment.
‘Fairly how lengthy that will probably be is for me to think about when I’ve heard your realized counsel subsequent week.’
Welcoming the conviction, Det Insp Duncan Wynn of Thames Valley Police’s financial crime unit mentioned: ‘I feel it exhibits Lois Bhagwan was a critical prison and that these offences warranted an look at Oxford Crown Courtroom and subsequent conviction.’
Fijian-born movie producer Bhagwan’s Lionheart Challenge was touted as a method of connecting folks world wide to resolve points going through communities throughout the globe.
The scheme, which was launched at an occasion within the St Regis Resort, Washington DC, in 2001 attended by former Amnesty Worldwide director Jack Healey, had its origins within the early Nineties.
The defendant hoped to create a movie and related TV collection specializing in completely different communities world wide with folks she branded ‘Lionhearts’.
Over time the ambition grew, with a worldwide community of ‘Lionhearts’ and plans for a world launch of the movie along with interactive ‘experiences’ able to connecting folks just about world wide.
Bhagwan set her sights excessive. Within the early Nineties, she approached former worldwide cricketer Imran Khan, now prime minister of Pakistan, who was then elevating cash for a hospital in Lahore.
Bhagwan was discovered responsible of seven counts of fraud at Oxford Crown Courtroom. She was warned she was going to jail when she returns for sentencing
He handed her on to his fundraising supervisor, Jacqueline Cowen. She instructed jurors: ‘She mentioned she was making a movie…It was to assist increase funds for numerous charities on the earth and Imran Khan’s was one among them.’
The defendant’s globetrotting way of life noticed her go to Egypt and Israel in firm with former Sunday Occasions photographer Bryan Wharton, who snapped her assembly troopers and diplomats.
She claimed to be funding the Lionheart Challenge out of her personal royalty earnings from movies she’d produced and, later, by a multi-million pound high-interest fund.
Her victims – a few of whom later arrange a ‘defamatory’ web site naming Ms Bhagwan and exposing the fraud – had been instructed that their cash could be positioned with this fund, which throughout her trial she mentioned had been registered in South Korea.
In whole, her victims misplaced virtually £160,000.
They included the ex-captain of the Fijian nationwide rugby staff, who misplaced virtually £2,000 to the fraud.
Former Saracens star Mosese Raulini, 46, instructed the jury he was in search of investments as he neared retirement.
He was launched to Lois Bhagwan by the Fijian Excessive Commissioner to the UK, Pio Bosco Tikoisuva.
Mr Raulini described the defendant as ‘bubbly’ and mentioned her undertaking ‘appeared fairly promising to me’.
He’d invested a complete of £1,950 in two chunks in 2010 and he or she requested him to try to get different rugby gamers concerned within the undertaking. He instructed jurors by way of video hyperlink from Australia that she’d saved asking him to take a position extra money, however he wasn’t in a position to.
Bhagwan was mentioned to have spoken of getting sponsorship for the Fijian nationwide rugby aspect. She instructed him at one stage that she’d obtained maintain of £12m and appeared ‘extraordinarily enthusiastic about that’.
Mr Raulini left the UK in 2012 and had not seen a return on his funding.
Sufferer Wanda Arnold, who was persuaded into handing over £25,000 for 2 shares within the Lionheart Challenge plus an extra £5,000 for a ‘short-term’ mortgage, described being in awe of the lady.
‘I assumed she was a really good girl, very enthusiastic. You bought swept alongside together with her. She was vivacious, she was very properly related and there have been instances I felt in awe of her,’ the Worcestershire lady instructed jurors.
‘She mentioned she knew folks like Condoleeza Rice, who was the [US] Secretary of State on the time, the Excessive Commissioner of right here, the Excessive Commissioner of there.’
Mrs Arnold mentioned she’d first met Bhagwan in December 2006 when she knocked on the door of their dwelling in Tenbury Wells, Worcestershire, and requested for some mistletoe to take to associates on an property in Scotland the place she was spending Christmas.
The sufferer mentioned of Bhagwan: ‘She mentioned she was a movie producer. She made or produced movies and that she’d gone out with some movie folks just like the man who performed Draco Malfoy in Harry Potter [Tom Felton].’
The con artist spoke to them concerning the Lionheart undertaking and defined there have been alternatives for the Arnolds, who ran a water remedy firm.
Inside six months she had persuaded them to purchase two shares within the undertaking, paying £12,500 for every share, promising excessive returns and no threat to the unique capital.
Paperwork despatched in 2008 and 2009 advised that they had made greater than £8,300 in curiosity.
In emails learn to the jury, Bhagwan described herself because the Arnold’s ‘sister’, addressed them as ‘bro’ and ‘sis’ and spoke of a particular bond.
In March 2010, she despatched an pressing plea to Mrs Arnold asking for her assist to lift £30,000 for a short-term mortgage. The sufferer finally handed over £5,000 – making an attempt to cover the cost from her husband, by then suspicious. Bhagwan promised to return the money with £500 curiosity.
By 2011, Bhagwan was not responding to calls or emails. The couple, who had not acquired any cash, employed a personal investigator to try to observe the lady down. She did finally get involved, claiming to have been in poor health and promising to rearrange cost.
The couple has nonetheless not been reimbursed by Bhagwan.
Different victims included Bhagwan’s former neighbours within the Cotswolds, the supervisor of a Highlands property the place she holidayed and an oil man she’d met in Egypt.