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This is interesting

The former son-in-law of Bernie Ecclestone has been cleared of forgery, but faces a re-trial for his alleged role in a £266m money laundering operation.

James Stunt, the 40-year-old ex-husband of heiress Petra Ecclestone, was one of eight defendants on trial in Leeds in relation to an alleged criminal network, which prosecutors said deposited cash in the bank account of Bradford gold dealer Fowler Oldfield from 2014 to 2016.

Four of the defendants – Paul Miller, 45; Heidi Buckler, 45; Alexander Tulloch, 41 and Francesca Sota, 34 – were cleared of money laundering at Leeds Crown Court on Wednesday. Ms Sota was also cleared of forgery.

But the jury of seven men and four women were unable to reach verdicts on the money laundering charge after deliberating for more than six days in the case of four other defendants – Mr Stunt; Greg Frankel, 44; Haroon Rashid, 51, and Daniel Rawson, 45.

Being found not guilty is the end of the matter, of course.

But this:

Prosecutors had said the eight defendants were part of a scheme to turn the proceeds of crime into untraceable gold.

Jurors heard that between 2014 and 2016 cash was brought from all over the country to Fowler Oldfield and Mr Stunt’s business premises in London.

It was alleged the defendants then hid its origin by washing it through a company bank account and using the proceeds to buy gold, which was shipped to Dubai.

Mr Stunt went into a business partnership with Fowler Oldfield’s directors Frankel and Rawson after being introduced to them at the Sheffield Assay Office, where he was building a refinery as part of his business plan to manufacture branded gold bars.

Prosecutors claimed this was when Mr Stunt got involved in the money laundering scheme, and cash started being counted at his London offices as well as Fowler Oldfield’s West Yorkshire premises.

I’ve long been of the – repeatedly expressed – opinion that gold bullion is a poor man’s belief about a rich man’s business. It’s a highly competitive business, margins are very tight. Sure, there’s large value moving through such a system, there’s a clip on every unit moving through it but it’s one that – without some edge to it – is dependent upon manufacturing efficiency rather than anything else.

Lee Stunt was chief operating officer of Stunt & Co, one of his younger brother’s companies, which sells gold bullion to investors.

Despite turning over more than £43 million, the company made a loss of £840,000 between November 2014 and March last year, according to the latest available accounts.

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