Socialite James Stunt took “a very hands-on approach” as his company became involved in a “sophisticated” money-laundering operation, a court has been told.
The former husband of heiress Petra Ecclestone is one of eight defendants on trial over an alleged network, which the court heard saw £266 million deposited in the bank account of Bradford gold dealer Fowler Oldfield over two years.
Prosecutors claim the “criminal cash” was brought into business addresses owned or managed by Stunt and his co-defendants between January 2014 and September 2016.
Leeds Cloth Hall Court previously heard that hundreds of thousands of pounds at a time was brought in carrier bags and holdalls to Fowler Oldfield in Bradford, West Yorkshire.
Prosecutor Nicholas Clarke QC claimed the defendants hid the origin of the money by putting it through a company bank account and using the proceeds to buy gold.
On Wednesday, jurors were shown messages between Stunt’s employees and co-defendants, Alex Tulloch and Francesca Sota, and staff at Fowler Oldfield. The court heard one message from Tulloch in November 2015 read: “James not happy though… James wants to know what his profit is for this week. Concerned about profitability etc.”
The court was told another message from Tulloch in April 2016, when Stunt was living out of the country, read: “Ensure that I get updated at least daily on £ in London and Bradford. Gold sold: Lock ins (Scotia), Cookson’s, Dubai. Refining: Any material coming out of the refinery.”
Mr Clarke said Stunt took a “very hands-on-approach” as the owner and director of Stunt & Co but delegated much of the responsibility to others. He told the court: “He was not involved in the day-to-day management of the buying and selling of gold and was not included in most of the correspondence via electronic means.
“However, emails between others demonstrate that he was very much aware of and authorised what was going on.”
Five defendants from Fowler Oldfield – Greg Frankel, Daniel Rawson, Paul Miller, Heidi Buckler and Haroon “Harry” Rashid – all say the prosecution cannot prove that any of the cash was criminal property.
Stunt and the defendants from his company – Tulloch and Sota – say they “don’t know whether it was”, the court has heard.
But prosecutors say it is “blindingly obvious this was criminal cash” and each of the defendants “must at the very least have suspected that the source of the money was criminal in origin”.
Jurors were told West Yorkshire Police launched Operation Larkshot to investigate large amounts of cash being credited to the bank account of Fowler Oldfield and collected from three sites – Fowler Oldfield’s own premises, the offices of James Stunt in central London and a new company called Pure Nines in Hatton Garden.
Mr Clarke said substantial amounts of cash were being paid into a bank account of Fowler Oldfield Limited from 2014.
He told jurors they aroused the suspicions of bank staff because “they were of such an amount, on a daily basis, as may come from a Premier League football stadium on a match day or similar size venue or event”.
The wider investigation discovered that from 1 January 2014 until 16 September 2016, more than £266 million in cash and unknown deposits were paid into the Fowler Oldfield bank account, the court heard.
All eight defendants deny money laundering and Stunt and Sota deny forgery.
Stunt married Ms Ecclestone, daughter of F1 tycoon Bernie Ecclestone, in Italy in 2011. They had three children together but divorced in 2017.