A crooked insurance chief and two of his former directors were jailed for up to seven years each today for covering up one of Britain’s “worst commercial disasters”.
Led by Michael Bright, once feted as one of the country’s leading businessmen, they desperately sought to safeguard their reputations and well-paid jobs by hiding the company’s ailing health.
They knew the market value of Independent Insurance – once the award-winning darling of the City – would plunge “dramatically” if full details of their losses ever became public knowledge.
London’s Southwark Crown Court heard for years they pulled the wool over the eyes of fellow directors, the company’s professional advisors and its investors in one of the most comprehensive cover-ups the City has seen.
When it collapsed, triggering massive job losses and years of financial heartache, it had – according to one estimate – a yawning £1billion chasm in its accounts.
Judge Geoffrey Rivlin, QC, said the criminality which covered it up amounted to a “serious disease” of “prolonged and grave dishonesty”.
Bankrupt Bright, the company’s former chief executive, had wept as he insisted he had done his job openly, honestly and to the best of his ability.
In fact he had been “arrogant, overbearing, domineering” and, above all, dishonest.
The 63-year-old former company chief, of Biddington Road, Smarden, Kent was jailed for seven years and was disqualified from being a company director for 12 years.