A pensioner in her 80s has told the court in Jersey how she found out something was wrong with the £100,000 she had trusted Lumiere Wealth with when on her birthday she was being asked questions at a Police headquarters.
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.
In this latest hearing, the pensioner told the court that she had put £100,000 – 40% of her “investible income” – into Providence on the advice of Byrne.
Providence offered up to 28% from a Brazilian factoring operation, where company debt was purchased at reduced prices in a practice known as ‘factoring’.
She claims she was not made aware of all the facts and probably would not have invested if she knew, local media Bailiwick Express reports.
The 80-year-old told the court she had been “retired forever” and that she had a small Jersey pension, and a very small UK pension. For the most part she depended on her investments returns to live.
As she put it: “I think I’d be in the poor house without my investments.”
Although she told the court she had become increasingly wary and suspicious when she noticed Lumiere and Providence had a similar logo and there might be some connection, the first time she realised “things had gone horribly wrong” was on her birthday when she was being asked questions at a Police headquarters.
Giving evidence separately, a middle-aged couple who recently moved from Australia to the island said
that at a series of meetings Bryne told them about Providence, which in their words he described as “safe as houses.” He also said he could set up an Australian dollar account. (continues…)
The couple argued over whether they should invest, and how much, with the wife telling the court it was “one of the unhappiest times” in their lives. In the end, they invested £350,000.
According to prosecution Advocate Simon Thomas, so keen was Byrne to get them onboard, he got Providence to pay the £2,500 penalty the couple were going to incur by withdrawing their money from their Australian account early, Bailiwick Express reports.
Both told the court Byrne conducted risk assessments to find out what type of investor they were, and were surprised to be classified as “moderately adventurous” or “adventurous”.
The couple became increasingly alarmed about their investments towards the end of February 2016 and tried to contact Byrne to sort things out. In their words, he was very evasive and it was two or three weeks before they got a reply.
Eventually, the couple contacted Byrne and said they wanted their money back. They were told he had resigned on health grounds and they would have to contact Providence directly.
These witnesses are part of 12 “ordinary” and “vulnerable” Islanders to whom Christopher Paul Byrne is alleged to have given false and misleading statements.