The Oldest Profession

£100m for the victims of HBOS crooks who wrecked small firms for profit and blew millions on yachts and prostitutes

Published in The Daily Mail
7th April 2017

The victims of criminal HBOS bankers who wrecked small businesses for a profit are set to share £100million in compensation. Rogue financier Lynden Scourfield was supposed to be in charge of saving struggling companies at the lender's turnaround unit in Reading. But he and cronies instead broke up successful firms to strip their assets, spending the proceeds on sex parties with prostitutes, luxury holidays, watches and a £2million yacht called Powder Monkey.

The 54-year-old and his associates are all in prison – but the entrepreneurs whose livelihoods they destroyed are still waiting to get their money back.

Lloyds, which bought HBOS as it teetered on the edge of collapse in the depths of the financial crisis, has launched a review and set aside £100million to make things right.

Boss Antonio Horta-Osorio said: 'We are absolutely determined that victims of the crimes committed at HBOS Reading are fairly, swiftly and appropriately compensated.  We take responsibility for putting right the wrongs that were committed at HBOS Reading at the time.'

Scourfield forced firms which needed to borrow cash to use his friend David Mills's crooked consultancy business. They used threats and extortion to seize control of businesses, plundering their bank accounts and pocketing massive new loans granted in their name.  The proceeds were blown on living the high life. Scourfield celebrated with luxury holidays, trips on Mills's superyacht and sex with porn star-turned £250-an-hour escort Suzie Best. Meanwhile, scores of middle-class entrepreneurs lost their companies, homes, pensions and even marriages.

The fraud ran from 2003 to 2007, cost Lloyds £245million and may have landed small firms with a bill as high as £1billion.

Scourfield was jailed for 11 years and three months in February while Mills, 60, was given 15 years behind bars.  Also locked up were 73-year-old Michael Bancroft, Mark Dobson, 56, and John Cartwright, 72. Mills's wife Alison, 51, played a major role and was sentenced to three and a half years.

The Financial Conduct Authority watchdog is investigating what happened and the bank is launching its own review chaired by an independent senior lawyer.

On compensation, Lloyds has asked small business expert Professor Russel Griggs to determine who is owed what. Customers targeted will have any remaining debts with the bank written off.

Nikki Turner, who founded victim campaign group SME Alliance after her business was destroyed by the crooks, said it was a step in the right direction but she thought more cash would be needed.