French couple thought they had invested in factories and not factoring: Lumiere trial

An elderly french couple with limited English skills has told the court in Jersey how they believed they were investing £70,000 of their savings in ‘factories’ and not the highly volatile scheme of ‘factoring’, as the fraud trial of disgraced financier Chris Bryne continues.

The former financier stands accused of losing £2.7m of money from clients by knowingly getting them to invest in a high-risk company. He is facing 18 charges, all of which he denies.

The court heard that the couple, like many of their fellow investors, had known the accused for a long time and had “trusted him.” They first met him when he looked after their investments at a local bank, and then stuck with him as he moved to a local investment firm, before setting up his own company, local newspaper Bailiwick Express reports.

According to their daughter, who also gave evidence, the elderly retirees “are just ordinary people who’ve worked hard for what they’ve got” and “live by their own old-fashioned rules.” She described them as unsophisticated investors who were very cautious and prudent.

The daughter attended a number of investment meetings with her parents and Byrne, and would often translate. She mentioned that at one of those meetings Byrne seemed to be “pushing them to invest” in a company in Brazil, promising very good returns of between 7 to 14%. Although they were surprised at these great rates and the fact that their money was safe, they had had similar returns in the past.

Their £70,000 investment ended up with a Brazilian company called Providence, that offered up to 28% from a Brazilian factoring operation, where company debt was purchased at reduced prices, reported the Bailiwick Express.

According to the prosecution, Byrne failed to tell investors that it was high risk and only suitable for experienced investors. Bryne also did not reveal he was getting a commission for pushing investments in Providence.

According to the daughter, she left to take a phone call during one of the meetings and when she came back her mother spoke to her in French and said the Brazilian venture involved investing in “factories and small businesses.” Byrne, she said, never corrected them.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Pedro Gonçalves
Pedro Gonçalves is Financial Correspondent at International Investment.

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