‘King Popper’ a nickname for a currency trader, Alex Hope, 25, is facing jail over £5.5m Ponzi scam after he spent £32,000 spraying himself with champagne at a Champagne Spray event in the five-star Grange Hotel near St Paul’s Cathedral earning him the title ‘King Popper’.
Alex boasted that he was a financial wizard as he swindled investors to fund his playboy lifestyle of exclusive nightclubs and gambling. He blew vast sums in exclusive casinos and in nightclubs around the world in a £2million binge.
He eventually landed an office job with City-based training school Forex Academy, then met his ‘mentor’ Raj Von Badlo, 56, while working as an independent trader at Zone Invest. By the end of 2011, investors were pouring cash into the trading scheme and huge sums were appearing in Hope’s bank account. Hope pocketed an ‘eye-watering’ £5.5million in just 13 months, between March 2011 and April 2012 - which he used as a ‘personal piggy bank’ to fund his extravagant lifestyle.
A jury of five men and six women unanimously found Hope guilty of fraud after just three hours and 57 minutes of deliberation.
The court heard the former Wembley stadium catering manager reinvented himself as a currency markets expert after teaching himself economics.
Prosecutor Sarah Clarke said: ‘This was an event that was organised where people could go to this hotel and buy bottles of champagne and, in effect, spray them over each other.
Retired teacher Christopher Millard ploughed £25,000 of his own money into Hope’s fraud which saw him lose £15,000.
In one email to Mr Millard, he wrote: ‘I am a man of my word, I have never not paid anyone, let’s get that straight first and foremost.’
Hope and Von Badlo used extensive PR to lure investors into the scam and spent £3,000 a month of client’s cash on publicity provided by London PR firm Full Portion Media. In one ‘spectacularly successful’ promotional push, Hope and Von Badlo held a seminar at the four-star Copthorne Hotel in Slough on 10 March 2012.
Glossy folders informed potential investors about the ‘Alex Hope Private Fund’ and the crowd heard Hope needed £5m to start his ‘dream’ hedge fund.
He was presented as a financial whizz-kid, capable of making huge profits for his investors at the same time as sustaining trading losses of £500,000 and capital liabilities of more than £3,500,000.
A second promotional stunt saw Von Badlo interview Hope outside the Old Trafford football stadium in September 2011 for a video intended to impress potential investors.
In it Hope boasts: ‘It is very easy to make quite a lot of money.’
Hope was using new investors’ funds to pay off those who wanted to leave the scheme, in the classic Ponzi fashion.
After suspicions around his Forex fund grew, the Financial Services Authority intervened and arrested him.
Ms Clarke said Hope told a ‘pack of lies’ and added his trading was ‘spectacularly unsuccessful’.
‘The truth was this was not a successful trading scheme, in fact it wasn’t a trading scheme really at all - it was a fraud,’ said Ms Clarke.
He admitted violating City rules which state he must have a licence from to work on behalf of others, although he is allowed to trade currency for his own profit.
He pleaded guilty to carrying on a regulated activity when not an authorised by the FSA.
Von Badlo, of Bourne End, Buckinghamshire, admitted making misleading statements and communicating an invitation or inducement to encourage investment activity following the collapse of the first trial.
Judge Deborah Taylor told Hope: ‘I am adjourning this case for sentencing until next Friday at this court, in the meantime you are remanded in custody.’
The pair will return to Southwark Crown Court on 16 January to be sentenced.
Source: Daily Mail