The German company which owns DAS UK, a company which insures people against the cost of taking legal action, spent hundreds of thousands of pounds on a private prosecution of the company's former CEO, Paul Asplin.
Asplin, his ex-wife Sally Jones and the company's former claims director David Kearns were all convicted of conspiracy to defraud at Southwark Crown Court on Monday, July 9.
On Friday, July 13, Judge Martin Beddoe sentenced Asplin to seven years in jail and disqualified him from being a company director for 12 years.
"You are a manipulative, arrogant and greedy man who misled the company's German owners, who you once described as 'idiots'," Judge Beddoe told Asplin, who faces a confiscation and compensation hearing later in the year which could leave him penniless.
The "Lee Amigos" Peacock, Matthews & Miller 2003 pic.twitter.com/k2XxqLpmX8— Bristol City Shirt (@bcfcshirt) 21 July 2016
DAS UK employs 700 people in Bristol and — and in 2003 Asplin persuaded the owners to sponsor the shirts of one of the city's football teams — is owned by Ergo, a company which is listed on the Frankfurt Stock Exchange and whose majority shareholder is the giant German reinsurance group Munich Re.
The trial heard Mr. Asplin and Mr. Kearns set up two companies — Medreport and CW Law — and funnelled work to these firms from DAS UK.
Asplin and Jones were "secret shareholders" in Medreport — which carried out medical assessments of whiplash victims and others involved in car accidents to help DAS decide whether they were likely to win civil court cases against the other drivers — and kept their "secret profits" from DAS's German owners.
Medreport was run by Jones, who was at the time Mr. Asplin's wife, and the court heard that he continued the fraudulent relationship with Medreport after they divorced as a means of avoiding maintenance payments.
Between 2001 and 2014 DAS UK put £44 million ($58 million) of work Medreport's way.
Sources close to the case say the facts of what happened were not really in doubt but Asplin and his co-defendants' case was that the company's management were aware of what was going on and did not have a problem with it because they were still making healthy profits.
They claimed it was well-known by the German owners. In 2006 an article in the Financial Mail, entitled The Ex-Wives Club, went into great detail about Asplin, his wives and his business affairs.
"Today is a day for humility and clear-sighted honesty," Asplin's defense counsel, Adrian Waterman QC, told the court.
He said he accepted his client had breached the trust of his employers and had lied to them over a number of years in order to "enrich himself" but he insisted DAS and its German owners had not suffered any loss as a result of his actions.
"We do not contend that there was no impact on DAS but we do submit that the evidence, the way the prosecution put its case and the way the jury was directed to approach the matter by the court at no stage identified an actual loss, an intended loss or even a quantified risk of loss," Mr. Waterman told the court.
"Ignoring the secrecy for one moment, the whole scheme worked for DAS. When one is considering the harm to DAS it's important to note that DAS was itself following the market and engaging in secret, prohibited practices to maximize its profits," he told the court.
But Judge Beddoe said he did not accept DAS was involved in any shady practices.
"I don't accept that there is any evidence that DAS breached regulations in its relations with Medreport or CW Law. DAS in Germany relied on what DAS in UK told them about regulations. Getting around regulations is not synonymous with breaching them," said Judge Beddoe, who said the "depth of betrayal" by Asplin was one of the reasons he had given him such a stiff sentence.
Asplin joined DAS at the age of 19 and rose to become the CEO and a multi-millionaire.
He knew the company like the back of his hand and used that information to feather his own bed and to deceive the German owners.
"We are pleased with today's outcome. The DAS brand itself stands ‘First for Justice'. Having found evidence indicative of wrongdoing, it was important that the company pursued the matter to its conclusion," said DAS in a statement sent to Sputnik.
Asplin, Kearns and Jones were convicted of defrauding DAS over Medreport but they were cleared of a similar charge involving CW Law.
Asplin's wife, Karen and Mr. Kearns' wife Jayne were acquitted of all charges, along with another man, Robert Dalley.
Mr. Dalley told BBC reporter Steve Brodie he was entirely innocent and his lawyer, Ian Kelcey, criticized the private prosecution, which he said could lead to a two-tiered justice system.
The main prosecutor in the case was Richard Whittam QC, a former First Senior Treasury Counsel, whose fees alone would have cost DAS tens of thousands of pounds.
"It is a very very dangerous road which we are treading upon," Mr. Kelcey told the BBC.
A Crown Prosecution Service spokesperson said the case had never been referred to them.