A former director of a shuttered Jersey wealth advice firm accused of losing vulnerable clients millions of pounds has said he took up the role to prevent staff members from losing their jobs.
The Jersey Evening Post reported that Des Jeffrey told the island’s Royal Court ‘we were given very little choice’ after Lumiere Wealth fell into administration in 2016.
He was giving evidence in the trial of Lumiere founder Christopher Byrne, who is charged with fraudulently persuading 12 clients to put money in a high risk investment vehicle Providence Investment Funds PCC which lost them £2.7 million and failing to supply information to authorities when directed.
Byrne denies 21 counts of fraudulent inducement to invest money and failing to comply with a forthwith notice.
The allegations relate to the collapse of Lumiere majority stakeholder Providence Global in 2016, which was shut down by the US Securities and Exchange Commission on accusations of fraud.
Jeffrey reportedly said he wasn’t confident enough in Providence’s products to sell them himself, but was 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 and said becoming a director was not his choice.
‘I felt we were given very little choice,' he said
'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.’
After he met clients who had been affected, Jeffrey realised ‘quite a few were not what I would call sophisticated investors’, the Post reported him as telling the court.
Those with large substantial investments were said to include a 79 year old partially sighted woman and a father of four who was a first-time investor.
‘From a professional perspective, it was a high percentage of a person’s wealth that would have gone to Providence,’ Jeffrey said.
The trial continues.