£11m fraudster must pay back £200,000

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A FORMER insurance firm director jailed for an £11 million fraud was yesterday ordered to pay back just £200,000.

John Walker, 59, was responsible for one of Scotland's largest financial crimes after thousands of insurance policies were sold through his company which were not underwritten.

He was jailed in 2006 for four years and ten months for what the judge called an "extensive and deliberate fraud".

The Crown then raised confiscation proceedings against him, seeking to recover the profits from his crime.

A two-day hearing in the action was due to begin at the High Court in Edinburgh yesterday, when it was announced that a settlement had been reached.

Simon Gilbride, counsel for Walker, told the court: "I am pleased to say the matter has been found to be capable of resolution."

He said that Walker's realisable asset was a half-share in a house in Biggar Road, Penicuik, Midlothian, and it was agreed that a confiscation order for 200,000 should be made.

Mr Gilbride said that Walker was currently in Noranside open prison in Angus and the money should be paid to the sheriff clerk at Forfar within six months.

Barry Divers, the advocate depute, asked the court to record the proceeds of Walker's general criminal conduct at 205,936. The judge, Lord Brodie, said that he would grant authority to the agreement reached between the Crown and Walker.

Walker established Tribune Risk & Insurance Services, which specialised in building and contents cover, after working for many years in insurance.

The main underwriters decided to pull out of that market in December 2001 at relatively short notice.

However, Walker decided to continue to accept business without having anyone underwriting the policies.

Tribune, based at Eskbank, in Midlothian, employed a 100-strong staff but went into liquidation.

The Financial Services Authority launched an investigation after a string of complaints.

Walker's victims lost at least 225,000 through claims that were never met after the firm folded.

Liquidators assessed its assets at just over 50,000 and its liabilities at 2.5 million.

Walker, formerly of Marchwell House, in Penicuik, admitted committing a 10,945,000 fraud. Lord Carloway told him that he would have jailed him for six years for the offence, but for his guilty plea.

Sentencing Walker two years ago, Lord Carloway said: "The concern of the court is that you took from thousands of ordinary people premiums for house insurance that you did not obtain."

The judge said each of them was exposed to "the risk of financial ruin" if Tribune could not pay out over a legitimate claim.