On 4 April at Southwark Crown Court, Nasser Alaghband the former CEO of British Steel trading company Balli Steel Plc (Balli) was sentenced to six and a half years in prison for directing a "substantial, sophisticated and lengthy" banking fraud.
He had pleaded guilty in June 2022 to fraudulent trading and was described by the Judge as the "principal orchestrator" of fraud against banks including Bank ABC, DBS, KBC, Rabobank and The Economy Bank.
Two former senior Balli executives, Melis Erda, treasury chief and Louise Wordsell, head of operations in the Middle East were convicted of multiple counts of conspiracy to defraud following a five-month trial. They were sentenced to three years and 10 months and three years and one month respectively.
At the direction of Alaghband, the company falsified transaction and shipping documents and financial information to encourage banks to open letters of credit for steel trades.
Balli purported to use a Cayman Islands-based shipping company for the majority of its trades.
Balli went into liquidation in February 2013.
As the Judge pointed out in his sentencing remarks, frauds against banks are not victimless crimes as they impact ordinary savers as well as bank employees, should the banks fail.
Given the recent collapse of high-profile cases such as that of G4S, the convictions and sentences imposed were welcomed by the Director of the SFO, Lisa Osofsky who stated, “Today’s result demonstrates our commitment to battling serious economic crime.”
Confiscation proceedings will follow against the three defendants and a hearing is fixed for December 2023.