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Last Updated: Monday, 30 October 2006, 17:24 GMT
Businessman jailed for 11m fraud
John Walker
John Walker was jailed for four years and 10 months
A company director behind one of Scotland's largest financial crimes has been jailed for almost five years.

John Kirke Walker, 57, from Penicuik, Midlothian, sold nearly 11m of bogus insurance cover.

His firm Tribune Risk and Insurance Services left more than 43,000 clients with worthless policies after its main underwriter pulled out.

Judge Lord Carloway said it was a fraud on a "very large scale" which had seen many people suffer significant losses.

He told Walker that he would have jailed him for six years but the sentence would be reduced to four years and 10 months because of his guilty plea.

Terror attacks

Walker, who ran the company in Eskbank, Midlothian, claimed approved firms were underwriting his policies when they were not doing so.

The business, which employed 109 people and attracted 800 policies a week at the height of its success, was badly hit by the terror attacks on the US on 11 September, 2001.

The two-year scam meant that when some customers came to make claims, they were left with no insurance and had to find money for hefty bills.

At an earlier hearing at Edinburgh Sheriff Court, Walker admitted committing the fraud of just over 10.9m.

The court heard he pocketed 550,000 over two years.

You took from thousands of ordinary people premiums for household insurance you didn't obtain
Lord Carloway

In June he was referred to the High Court for sentencing.

Jailing Walker, Lord Carloway said: "I'm satisfied that your decision was not made for the purpose of achieving any immediate substantial financial gain.

"The concern of this court is that you took from thousands of ordinary people premiums for household insurance you didn't obtain."

The judge added that Walker had not understood how serious the charges against him were.

Full resposibility

Although he had a previous conviction for fraud, Lord Carloway said he accepted he had lived an otherwise blameless life.

In mitigation, defence counsel Mhairi Richards QC said problems began after a company named Highway pulled out of the business in December 2001.

She said her client accepted full responsibility for the decision to carry on rather than fold the business.

Tribune
The firm was liquidated in December 2003

Ms Richards said a replacement underwriter was eventually found to start on 1 March, 2004 and Walker was confident that he was in a position to trade his way out of trouble.

By the end of 2003 the company was attracting 800 new policies a week with a projected income of 15.7m by November 2004.

However, the amount of claims also grew and Ms Richards said this accounted for a substantial amount of the 10.9m.

Ms Richards insisted that in four years Walker never drew a salary and only took 61,000 from the company.

Advocate Depute Peter Hammond said the Crown stood by the 550,000 estimate of the amount made by Walker.


VIDEO AND AUDIO NEWS
Hear evidence from the court



SEE ALSO
Insurance man admits 10m fraud
24 May 06 |  Edinburgh and East
Charges follow insurance inquiry
13 Aug 04 |  Scotland
Thousands left without insurance
12 Dec 03 |  Scotland

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