Two former directors of a Cornwall-based currency exchange company which left thousands of travellers out of pocket after collapsing with up to £20m debts appeared in court yesterday.
Edward James, 73 – the ex-mayor of Glastonbury, and Peter Benstead, 70, have been charged with fraudulent trading and false accounting after Crown Currency Exchange went bust in 2010.
Benstead is also accused of syphoning off more than £1m from Crown Currency Exchange and its parent company, Crown Holdings, while he was co-director between December 1, 2006 and October 31, 2010.
Up to 13,000 people are believed to have been affected when the Hayle-based company went into liquidation with assets of just £3m.
Benstead was arrested, with his children Julian Benstead, 44, Katey Calvimonte, 35, and Victoria O'Brien, 37, following a police investigation. He and his two daughters are charged with perverting the course of justice in relation to allegedly burning documents connected to both companies.
He and Calvimonte alone are charged with obtaining a money transfer by deception concerning a bogus mortgage application.
Julian Benstead is also charged with fraudulent trading and is alleged to have stolen gold from Mayfair and Grant, a "cash for gold" company, of which his father was also a co-director.
The firm, which was founded in 2009, purchased gold and other precious metals from customers and also accepted funds from people who wanted to invest in gold.
Crown Exchange and Crown Holdings company secretary, Stephen Matthews, 50, and senior manager, Roderick Schmidt, 44, are also charged with fraudulent trading and false accounting.
Peter Benstead, James, Matthews and Schmidt also face further charges of failing to keep accurate accounting records for Crown Currency Exchange and Crown Holdings.
James and O'Brien appeared in person at Southwark Crown Court yesterday while the other defendants appeared from a video link in Truro. They spoke only to confirm their names during a brief ten-minute hearing.
Judge Anthony Leonard QC adjourned the case until November 19 for a further preliminary hearing.
Peter Benstead, Julian Benstead, Calvimonte, Schmidt, and Matthews, all of Penzance, Cornwall; James, of Glastonbury, Somerset, and O'Brien, of Welwyn, Herts, are yet to enter any formal pleas.