Lib Dem donor facing jail (again): Conman Michael Brown who gave party a record £2.4million is accused of money laundering in Spain
- Prosecutors want Michael Brown and his wife jailed and fined more than £8mil
- Lib Dems refused to hand back the £2.4mil of stolen funds he donated in 2005
- His trial in Spain with wife of 25 years will be embarrassing for the Lib Dems
- The probe in was launched at the behest of anti-corruption investigators
A conman who donated £2.4million of stolen funds to the Liberal Democrats has been charged with laundering millions of pounds of dirty money in Spain with the help of his wife.
Prosecutors want Michael Brown, 52, and Sharon Campbell, 59, jailed and fined more than £8million.
They allege ‘the volume of the hidden illicit money spent and transferred to other places by the accused’ is more than £2.6million.
The convicted fraudster Michael Brown (photographed with a laundry bag), who donated £2.4 of tainted money to the Liberal Democrats and then tried to evade justice. After finishing a seven year jail sentence in the UK he then resumed living happily in his luxury Majorca villa in Spain
The Majorca home of convicted fraudster Michael Brown and wife Sharon Campbell, near the town of Esporles
The Porsche Cayenne ‘S’ belonging to convicted fraudster Michael Brown and his wife Sharon Campbell
But they also say £36million of Brown’s funds is still missing more than a decade after his brazen crimes came to light.
The Lib Dems have repeatedly refused to hand back the £2.4million of stolen funds he donated in 2005, insisting it was accepted in ‘good faith’. It was the biggest donation in the party’s history – but simple checks would have revealed Brown’s dubious background.
Now the playboy is in trouble again. His impending trial in Spain with his wife of 25 years will be extremely embarrassing for the Lib Dems, who start their autumn conference in Brighton today.
The judge-led probe in Majorca was launched at the behest of anti-corruption investigators around the time Brown was completing a jail term for theft and fraud offences in the UK.
Michael Brown, 45, in Mallorca with wife Sharon in 2008. Brown jumped bail in London in to escape charges involving £36 million in swindled funds. He was on the run for three years before being held in the Dominican Republic, then returned to the UK to serve seven and a half years in prison
The investigating judge agreed to cast a fresh look at whether he had laundered money from his illegal activities through assets in Majorca, including property and various companies. Now a prosecution file details how:
- Brown spent some of his ill-gotten gains on two stunning properties in Majorca – one a sprawling Love Island-style house at the resort of Andratx now worth £3million;
- He bought a £275,000 yacht, a £61,000 Porsche Cayenne, a £72,000 Jaguar XK8 sports car and a £9,000 Yamaha XVS 650 motorbike;
- He spent about £600,000 on hiring private planes;
- Dozens of suspicious bank transactions by Brown or companies under his control – involving millions of pounds – are being investigated. Some bank transfers involve offshore accounts and accounts in Switzerland and the US.
It was near the couple’s property in Esporles, which prosecutors allege was bought with laundered money, that reclusive Brown was photographed carrying a laundry bag. He refused to apologise to his victims and suggested he was not obliged to pay them any money because ‘no confiscation orders’ were made.
The crook, who now styles himself Michael Campbell-Brown, declined to reveal how he came to give so much money to the Lib Dems.
As he returned home in his Porsche Cayenne after a round of golf with his wife, he denied being under investigation for money laundering.
The multimillion pound villa in Andratx, seized by the bank, and now developed into a massive £30,000 a week rental property which was listed in prosecution documents relating to new charges levelled against convicted fraudster Michael Brown and his wife by Spanish prosecutors
‘Not as far as I know,’ he said when questioned about the probe. ‘I have been in jail already.’
Brown, who falsely claimed to have been educated at Gordonstoun and St Andrews, and to have been the son of a lord, is one of Britain’s most audacious fraudsters.
To boost his status, the smooth-talking Glaswegian – who also boasted that he had links to the US secret service – handed the Lib Dems a record donation to fund their 2005 general election campaign and whisked then party leader Charles Kennedy and other grandees around the country in a private jet.
It seemed too good to be true – as indeed it was. It later emerged that Brown had accrued his enormous wealth by conning huge sums out of trusting investors including former Manchester United chairman Martin Edwards, who lost £5million.
Picture of a ‘mid-life crisis’ cruiser motorbike a Yamaha XVS650, of the type listed as an asset of convicted fraudster Michael Brown by Spanish prosecutors
The Lib Dems received the £2.4million of stolen client funds through one of Brown’s firms, Fifth Avenue Partners. Its suspicious bank transactions are repeatedly mentioned in the Spanish prosecution papers.
However, sources said his gift to Sir Vince Cable’s party is not part of the prosecution case in Majorca, which focuses on money allegedly laundered on the holiday island.
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Brown was nicknamed the ‘Lib Dem Ronnie Biggs’ after jumping bail in London to escape charges involving £36million in swindled funds.
A master of disguise, he was on the run for more than three years before being held in the Dominican Republic and was returned to the UK to serve seven-and-a-half years in jail.
Brown was released in January 2016 halfway through his prison sentence and, after probation, moved to Majorca where he has been living in luxury with his wife Sharon at their £750,000 ‘winter villa’ overlooking mountains in Esporles.
Arrest pictures from Naples, Florida of businessman Michael Robert Alexander Brown. He was arrested several times in the late 1990’s for writing a number of bad cheques. He fled Florida, violating his parole
In his summary of the money laundering case in Spain, anti-corruption prosecutor Juan Carrau said: ‘The continued and unjustified number of bank transfers between different accounts controlled by the accused makes no sense and is designed solely to hide the true origin and destination of the funds. At the same time there is no commercial sense in the high number of bank accounts that the accused uses in Spain.
‘The accused Sharon Campbell has taken part with Brown in trying to hide the origin of the funds the other accused managed, the reason for the income, and also where the money was going.
‘She has intervened directly acquiring some assets in joint use and directly receiving up to three bank transfers for different amounts.’
A Fairline Targa 43 2000 model, of the type listed as an asset of convicted fraudster Michael Brown by Spanish prosecutors
Mr Carrau revealed that a judge in Majorca’s capital Palma has signed an order to commence the prosecution against the couple.
He also warned that arrest warrants would be issued if they did not attend court. Prosecutors are waiting to receive the defence case and a date has yet to be fixed for the trial.
In the indictment, Mr Carrau says: ‘In Spain during years 2004 and 2006 Brown carried out various acquisitions of assets such as properties, vehicles and a boat with money from his criminal activities. He also moved funds between his bank accounts, including large withdrawals of cash.
‘Campbell knows the criminal origins of the funds and helped him to hide their origin and destination.
‘The two accused dedicated themselves to managing and hiding funds. They came from criminal activities. They had full knowledge it came from criminal activities.
‘They created companies and used bank accounts in Spain to manage big quantities, to proceed to cover up the origins and enjoy these sums.’
Picture of a luxury Mitsubishi Montero 4×4, of the type listed as an asset of convicted fraudster Michael Brown by Spanish prosecutors
The prosecutor wants Brown jailed for five years and fined £5.3million, with three years and five months in prison and a £2.7million fine for Miss Campbell. Assets including the villa in Esporles should be seized, he adds.
Brown, who once had plush offices in Mayfair, was first arrested at his villa near Esporles in 2006 over a fraud in the UK and hauled back to London to face trial. He had been posing as a bond trader to take money from clients who believed he was educated at Gordonstoun and St Andrews, the son of a lord and that they were being vetted by US embassy officials and Special Branch.
Lib Dem peer Lord Strasburger put up £250,000 bail money for Brown after he was charged in the UK, only to see him go on the run for more than three years. He was convicted in his absence.
Miss Campbell declined to comment on behalf of her and her husband this week.
Give us back our money, his victims urge Cable
Michael Brown’s victims have repeated their calls for the Liberal Democrats to hand back the £2.4million he gave them.
Bill Chua, an oil trader based in Singapore, lost £100,000 that he spent getting Brown bailed out of jail while he was in the Dominican Republic. The two men had been talking about a £29million oil deal but it fell through when Mr Chua became suspicious.
‘The Liberal Democrats have no morals,’ Mr Chua said. ‘If they have enough money they should give it back but I don’t think these guys have any morals.’
Another investor who did not want to be named said he was able to trace the millions he lost – and found much of it was given to the Liberal Democrats.
The investor said: ‘There is no justice here. If somebody has found some money, I’ll be on the first plane there, otherwise I just want to forget about it.
‘The Liberal Democrats should give me my money back.’
The Lib Dems, now led by Sir Vince Cable, have repeatedly refused to hand back the stolen funds Brown donated in 2005.
In 2011, when it emerged the conman was in hiding in the Dominican Republic, senior figures in the party admitted they had spent it all.
Former leader Charles Kennedy said the donation was accepted before the 2005 election only after the Lib Dems went the ‘extra mile’ to check out Brown.
But letters between Brown and senior party officials suggested this was not the case. One written by the fraudster to Lord Razzall, the party’s campaign chairman at the time, criticises it for doing ‘little or no due diligence’.
A Lib Dem spokesman said: ‘The party fully complied with the regulations set out by the Electoral Commission. The commission’s inquiry in 2009 found the party accepted the donation in good faith, and were in no way at fault.’
Sources added the Spanish authorities had not been in touch with the party over the money-laundering investigation.
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