“An utterly dishonest man” – Schools jailed over Axiom fraud

Schools: ‘Get rich quick’ scheme
Pic: Central News

The struck-off solicitor who pocketed at least £20m from the Axiom Legal Financing Fund was yesterday jailed for 14 years.

Judge Martin Beddoe told Timothy Schools, 61, that in the 12 years since the collapse of the Cayman Islands-based fund, there had been no admissions or demonstrations of remorse.

“Any such expressions of regret have in my judgment been insincere and disingenuous. You are an utterly dishonest man,” he said. “I have no doubt that you always saw this as a ‘get rich quick’ scheme.”

Judge Beddoe said Mr Schools deceived investors “either by untruths or misdirection to be able to cream off as much as you could” and spend it “indulgently”.

“You personally pocketed £20m, which for the most part you squirrelled offshore.”

He used the money to finance a lifestyle that included the purchase of shares in a luxury ski hotel in France, a motor boat, luxury cars and a £5m fishing and shooting estate in the Lake District.

We reported yesterday had the Serious Fraud Office had to follow a complex web of companies and bank accounts to eight countries around the world, from England to the Marshall Islands in the South Pacific.

Prosecutor Paul Raudnitz QC said 35,000 clients were affected, while investors put in about £107m into the fund, of which only around £7m was recovered. “Litigating the matter has resulted in no meaningful return to the investors.”

He added: “The very first investment had money siphoned off for School’s benefit. If that’s not a fraud from the outset then I don’t know what is.”

Mr Schools’ counsel, George Carter-Stephenson, had said the scheme had not begun as a dishonest endeavour.

He added that Mr Schools has lost almost all of his assets due to a civil claim brought against him ,and had been left feeling “very stressed” as a result of the trial.

He was also disqualified from being a company director for 15 years and was described as appearing “shell-shocked” as the sentence was announced and he was led to the cells.

Mr Schools owned Preston law firm ATM Solicitors, supposedly given its name because he used it as “his personal cash machine”, Southwark Crown Court heard during the trial.

The solicitor, of Sedbergh, Cumbria, denied but was convicted of three counts of fraudulent trading, one count of fraud and one count of transferring criminal property.

    Readers Comments

  • John Pidgeon says:

    Who should I contact re Axiom Wealth Limited and Carter Blue re misappropriation of pension funds
    I have all the paperwork etc

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