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Friday, 11 October, 2002, 16:08 GMT 17:08 UK
Man jailed for Spanish property fraud
Bristol Crown Court
Bristol Crown Court was told how investors were duped
A businessman described as a "professional fraudster" has been sent to prison for cheating investors out of thousands of pounds in a Spanish property scam.

Selva Carmichael, 41, who wooed investors with trips abroad and promises of a quick return on their money, was jailed for four-and-a-half years on Friday at Bristol Crown Court.

Carmichael, who operated his company, The Carmichael Corporation, from offices in Bristol, offered people the chance to invest in property or plots of land in the Spanish resort of La Manga.

Most of the investors never saw their money again including one woman who lost 100,000.

Business in trouble

Prosecuting, Mr James Townsend said: "The defendant wooed investors with the promise that if they invested in property in Spain they would receive very swift and generous returns on their capital investment."

But soon after the operation began in 1996 "the whole thing was falling to bits", he said.

He said that despite a police raid on his offices in 1997, Carmichael continued to trade as normal, telling investors that it was "all a mistake" and blaming the police for his problems.

"His business was in trouble long before any intervention by police officers," Mr Townsend said.

The court was told that it was not known what Carmichael had done with the money.

'Lavish' trips

Sergeant Tim Beer, from the Avon and Somerset Police Fraud Squad, said Carmichael promised investors that he was going to transform the La Manga resort.

The businessman, who claimed to be a multi-millionaire, "wooed" his investors with lavish trips to apartments in Spain and promised them a 100% return within six months, Sgt Beer said.

Clients who then heard nothing about their money eventually complained.

Defending, Nigel Sweeney, said Carmichael had started out with genuine and honest intentions.

Life savings

"This was a scheme that was honest in its inception and became dishonest over time," he said.

Carmichael, formerly of Odessa Street, Rotherhithe, south east London, had at an earlier hearing pleaded guilty to nine counts of obtaining money transfers by deception and one count of attempting to obtain property by deception.

Judge Carol Hagen described Carmichael as an "intelligent and ingenious" man who had convinced a number of people to part with their money by acting as a "plausible and persuasive" businessman.

After the hearing, Sgt Beer described Carmichael as a "professional fraudster" and said he was "delighted" by the length of the jail sentence.

"This is not a victimless crime, A lot of people have lost their life savings," he said.


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