Ex-HBOS banker 'sold his soul for swag'

A former HBOS banker and five other financiers have been jailed for their part in a £245m loans scandal.

Lynden Scourfield was sentenced to 11 years and three months, while consultant David Mills was jailed for 15 years.

Judge Martin Beddoe said Scourfield “sold his soul” to Mills in exchange for “sex”, “bling” and “for swag”.

Four other defendants were also convicted and sentenced to between 10 years and three and a half years.

HBOS: A highly unusual case

The six were sentenced on Thursday over the scandal which targeted the bank’s small business customers.

The group was found to have siphoned off funds and spent the profits on prostitutes, luxury holidays and a range of expensive items.

Michael Bancroft, 73, was jailed for 10 years; Mark Dobson, 56, another former HBOS manager, was sentenced to four and a half years. The two were jailed on counts including bribery and money laundering.

Alison Mills, 51, and John Cartwright, 72, were given three and a half year sentences for money laundering.

‘Utterly corrupt’

Judge Beddoe said the case involved an “utterly corrupt senior bank manager letting rapaciously greedy people get their hands on vast amounts of bank money and their tentacles into ordinary and honest businesses”.

HBOS, once Britain’s biggest mortgage lender under the Halifax and Bank of Scotland brands, was forced to write off £245m related to the conspiracy.

In exchange for bribes, Scourfield, 54, a former HBOS manager, told customers to use a turnaround firm called Quayside Corporate Services.

Mills, 60, who ran Quayside with his wife Alison, bribed Scourfield with expensive watches, sex parties and, the court heard, “boys’ jollies”.

These were given in exchange for loans which allowed Mills and his associates to charge high consultancy fees.

‘Lives destroyed’

Scourfield, who looked after corporate customers at HBOS’ branch in Reading, pleaded guilty at an earlier trial last year to six counts including corruption.

The bankers were bribed to push businesses to use Quayside, which claimed to be expert in running companies.

Many of the businesses were perfectly sound and had no need of help, but were told their relationship with their bank would be in jeopardy if they did not agree to use Quayside.

“Their victims were people who were trying to contribute to the economy,” said Detective Superintendent Nick John of Thames Valley Police.

“They were normal people running small to medium-sized businesses who needed support and instead had their livelihoods, and in many cases, their lives, destroyed.”

‘Marriages broken’

Some of the victims lost their companies, livelihoods and even their homes due to the scam.

Paul and Nikki Turner, from Cambridge, tried to report what was going on after their publishing company, Zenith, was run into the ground by the scammers.

“They defrauded us, denied for 10 years that the fraud had happened, ignored the debt from the fraud and tried to evict us 22 times in order to cover up the fraud,” Mrs Turner said outside court.

“It’s a huge success for us that the trial has gone on.”

She added: “The other victims have gone through terrible things, they have gone through the loss of businesses and lost homes.”

“Other people lost everything, including marriages broken up, because of this.”

Sex parties

The CPS special prosecutor, Stephen Rowland, said the case at Southwark Crown Court was one of the largest and most complex the special fraud division had ever prosecuted.

“It involved millions of documents, a lot of the material we had to look at was electronic and of course in this day and age the capacity for electronic media is huge,” he said.

Businessmen Bancroft and Mills arranged sex parties, exotic foreign holidays, cash in brown envelopes and other favours for Scourfield between 2003 and 2007.

In exchange for the bribes, Scourfield would require the bank’s small business customers to use Quayside.

But far from helping turn businesses around, Mills and his associates were milking them for huge fees and using their relationship with the bank to bully the business owners and strip them of their assets.

In cash fees alone, according to prosecutors in the trial, £28m went through the accounts of Mills, his wife and their associated companies.

But the true value to Mills of the corrupt relationship with Scourfield was much greater.

“What Scourfield gave Mills in addition to fees was the opportunity to take control of the various businesses and, in some cases, to acquire ownership of them,” prosecutor Brian O’Neill QC told the court.

“Mills and his associates used the bank’s customers and the banks’s money dishonestly to enrich themselves,” he said.

HBOS, now owned by Lloyds Banking Group, said: “The trial highlighted criminal actions that bear no reflection on the behaviours of the vast majority of the employees of HBOS at the time or in the group today.”

One other defendant, Jonathan Cohen, was acquitted at the trial, which finished this week after four months.

A special report about the case was broadcast on BBC Radio Four on Tuesday 31 January at 20:00.

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