Former Lumiere director claims he “had little choice” during fraud trial

Pedro Gonçalves
Former Lumiere director claims he “had little choice” during fraud trial

A former director at Lumiere, the now defunct Jersey wealth advice firm accused of losing vulnerable clients millions of pounds, has said in court he took up the role to prevent staff members from losing their jobs.

“It was not my choice,’ Des Jeffrey said. “I felt we were given very little choice. There were 14 staff members and I was told if I did not step up the regulator would close us down immediately and everyone would lose their jobs,” he told the Royal Court in Jersey, the Jersey Evening Post reports.

Once he began meeting the clients who had been affected, he realised most were not seasoned investors.

He was giving evidence in the trial of Lumiere founder Christopher Byrne, the former financier 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.

Des Jeffrey said he reluctantly assumed a director’s role at Lumiere Wealth in June 2016 after the Jersey Financial Services Commission took over the company’s administration.

Jeffrey reportedly said he was not confident enough in Providence’s products to sell them himself, but not overly concerned about the company’s business model.

He noted the “frantic” pace of the Jersey Financial Services Commission (JFSC) in putting Lumiere under administration in 2016 and said becoming a director was not his choice.

Among those who lost substantial sums, the court was told, were a 79-year-old partially sighted woman and a French elderly couple with limited English skills, as reported by International Investment.

“Once I had actually met them I could see quite a few were not what I would call sophisticated investors,” Jeffrey said. “From a professional perspective, it was a high percentage of a person’s wealth that would have gone to Providence,” he told the court, according to the Jersey Evening Post.

The trial continues.