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Jury considers verdict as socialite is accused of laundering cash by buying gold

Socialite James Stunt outside Leeds Cloth Hall Court (Danny Lawson/PA)
Socialite James Stunt outside Leeds Cloth Hall Court (Danny Lawson/PA)

The jury in the trial of socialite James Stunt, who is accused of money laundering, has retired to consider its verdicts.

The 40-year-old ex-husband of heiress Petra Ecclestone is one of eight defendants on trial in relation to an alleged criminal network, which jurors have heard saw £266 million deposited in the bank account of Bradford gold dealer Fowler Oldfield from 2014 to 2016.

Prosecutors say “criminal cash” was brought from all over the country to Mr Oldfield’s premises in West Yorkshire, before the scheme “went national” and Stunt’s offices in London also started receiving money.

It is claimed the defendants hid the origin of the money by moving it through a company bank account and using the proceeds to buy gold.

Socialite James Stunt and Helena Robinson outside Leeds Cloth Hall Court during a break for lunch
Socialite James Stunt and Helena Robinson outside Leeds Cloth Hall Court during a break for lunch (Danny Lawson/PA)

Opening the case to jurors at Leeds Cloth Hall Court in May, prosecutor Nicholas Clarke QC said it was “blindingly obvious this was criminal cash”.

The court was told the money was carried in sports bags, carrier bags and holdalls in hundreds of thousands of pounds at a time – and all paid into Mr Oldfield’s bank account.

Giving evidence, Stunt told the jury his business – Stunt & Co – was a “legitimate gold bullion dealer” and the plan was to source raw gold and turn it into high-quality gold bars.

Jurors heard he started a “joint venture” with Mr Oldfield in August 2015 and the defendant denied there was anything illegal about the partnership, saying: “To be as ostentatious, as I was, that’s like walking around with a sign saying ‘arrest me’.”

Prosecutors said Stunt may have got involved in the alleged network because the breakdown of his marriage to the daughter of F1 tycoon Bernie Ecclestone meant the “river of money” from her family was “running dry”.

But Stunt told the court he was “not a kept man” during his relationship.

James Stunt
Judge Andrew Stubbs KC sent the jury of seven men and four women out to consider its verdicts on Tuesday afternoon (Danny Lawson/PA)

He told jurors Ms Ecclestone’s family were “very controlling of our marriage”.

Asked by his barrister Richard Fisher KC if he had ever sought attention, Stunt said: “I’m not a Kardashian, I’ve never done anything to achieve fame.

“Wow, I have some money, I married a famous man’s daughter.

“That wasn’t what I wanted. I loved my wife – I didn’t love her bank account.”

Judge Andrew Stubbs KC sent the jury of seven men and four women out to consider its verdicts on Tuesday afternoon.

Heidi Buckler, 45, Greg Frankel, 44, Paul Miller, 45, Haroon Rashid, 51, Daniel Rawson, 45, Francesca Sota, 34, Stunt and Alexander Tulloch, 41, all deny money laundering.

Stunt and Sota also deny forgery.