Scams and shams — June/July 2015

Arlette Ricci of Nina Ricci Perfumes is the first high-profile conviction in the HSBC "Swissleaks" scandal. Plus, a British man uses a smartphone to forge his own bail letter.


Perfume heir's offshore funds fail the sniff test

Arlette Ricci, 73, granddaughter of Nina Ricci and heir to the French fashion and perfume house, will serve a year in prison for tax evasion. A Paris court heard how Ricci knowingly hid millions of euros from French tax authorities in a Swiss bank account from 2007 to 2009, including wiretap testimony of her acknowledging "all that is illegal anyway." Ricci, who must also pay a fine of 1 million euros ($1.3 million) and give up two properties worth 4 million euros, is the first high-profile conviction in the HSBC "Swissleaks" scandal, where a former employee of the bank disclosed the names of thousands of suspected tax evaders.


FC Barcelona in trouble over Neymar signing


The president of the Barcelona football club and his predecessor have been indicted for allegedly underreporting how much they paid in 2013 to sign soccer star Neymar da Silva Santos Jr. A Spanish judge investigating the case said Josep Bartomeu and Sandro Rosell used a web of contracts to hide the true cost of signing the player — an estimated 83 million euros ($109 million) as opposed to the 57 million euros they claim to have paid — so they could lower the club’s taxes. In an unrelated case, the team’s star forward, Lionel Messi, is under investigation for income tax fraud.


Hollywood producer scammed author

Christopher Eberts, multi-million-dollar producer of Lucky Number Slevin and Lord of War, pleaded guilty to taking a US$500,000 investment for a film he never made. Author Jeff Elliott put up the money thinking Eberts was making a movie based on his book Rebounding From Death’s Door. Instead, Eberts spent the money on artwork, travel and jewelry. Eberts, nephew of Jake Eberts, who produced the film Gandhi, has reportedly made restitution with "the help of his family."


BC investor fined $30M

Michael Lathigee and Earle Pasquill of Freedom Investment Club Group have been banned from investing in BC’s capital markets for perpetrating one of the largest frauds in the province’s history. The BC Securities Commission says the men raised nearly $22 million from about 700 investors without disclosing their firm’s severe cash flow problems. In addition to making them repay the money, the commission has fined each of the men $15 million.


Fraudster escapes jail with forged bail letter

A man serving time for duping large US and UK businesses out of $3.3 million by posing as their bank representative conned his way out of a London jail. Neil Moore, 28, used a smuggled smartphone to send a fake email from the prosecuting detective indicating Southwark Crown Court approved his bail release. Prison staff believed the email and let Moore go, even though "Southwark" was misspelled "Southwalk." Moore spent three days creating a new identity, but later turned himself in.