Charles Forsyth, who fled the UK in 2002 during a Serious Fraud Office investigation into the collapse of his company Personal Computer Science (PCS), has been jailed for three and a half years for fraud offences.
Newcastle Crown Court heard that Forsyth, 45, of Wheatley near Oxford, resorted to increasingly dishonest measures to keep his ailing business alive before PCS crashed with debts of £8m in July 1999 with the loss of 150 jobs. North Yorkshire-based PCS sold faulty computers built from second hand parts on to high street retailers such as Tesco and Argos. Forsyth also lied to secure a £750,000 overdraft facility from his bank and secure a $1.5m credit note as PCS ran into deep financial difficulties, The Telegraph reports.
In November 2001, multiple complaints from retailers prompted the Serious Fraud Squad to launch an investigation into PCS, which in its heyday, was one of the UK's biggest independent PC builders. As investigators zeroed in, Forsyth fled the UK, passing through Bulgaria and Russia before settling in Australia to live with his parents. He was arrested in Australia in 2002 and, following a protracted legal battle, extradited to the UK.
In court this week, prosecutors said Forsyth was prepared to resort to illegal tactics to fatten his business up in preparation for a possible flotation before his firm went into "complete meltdown".
Forsyth pleaded guilty Wednesday to two charges of fraudulent trading and to "obtaining pecuniary advantage by deception" as well as a string of less serious, related offences. On Thursday, Judge Guy Whitburn sentenced him to a combined total of three and a half years imprisonment. Forsyth was also banned from being a company director for 10 years.
Judge Whitburn told Forsyth: "It was your aim to either float the company or have it taken over. You were reckless to reality but you did hope, at one stage to pocket £1.5 million and a considerable amount of shares.
“You showed no remorse or contrition and absconded and after travelling the world were arrested in Australia... you travelled on a false passport and driving licence. None of these are the actions of a man who acknowledges guilt," he said, the Press Association reports.
Judge Whitburn praised North Yorkshire police and the SFO for their "tenacity" in bringing Forsyth to justice.
Forsyth, a Scots aristocrat and son of a clan chieftain, has had a colourful career in the PC industry, being involved in several high-profile company failures including Multiplex, NTS and Microworld. For a time he also ran a classic car dealership in his native Edinburgh. ®