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Tax disc clue to missing million

A COMPUTER whizz kid recruited bank insiders and swindled his way to a millionaire's life of luxury during a ''highly organised sophisticated international fraud'', a London court heard yesterday.

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With ''potentially limitless'' possibilities beckoning, the alleged ''captain of the criminal enterprise'', Michael Boparan, got them to raid highly confidential data bases.

Valuable account information from high spending clients was then used to forge large numbers of gold and platinum credit cards, claimed Mark Tomassi, prosecuting.

Corporate and individual accounts were then plundered and on some occasions up to #10,000 at a time was withdrawn during over-the-counter transactions.

The barrister told Southwark Crown Court the criminal scheme was so cleverly contrived that National Westminster Bank chiefs hardly knew what hit them.

By the time police caught up with Mr Boparan and the others allegedly involved, more than #1m worth of cash and property had been ''netted''.

Mr Tomassi told the jury Mr Boparan bought expensive cars, lived ''very comfortably'' in a plush apartment and enjoyed five-star hotels.

''He was going around spending and enjoying the high life,'' said the barrister. ''He was operating a massive fraud and making himself very rich as a result of it.''

In the dock with the 30-year-old businessman, of St John's Wood, north-west London, are Bulent Osman, 30, of Keston, Kent, and Russell Jones, 27, of Southend.

All three deny the joint charge of conspiracy to defraud NatWest, other central clearing banks, companies, corporations, and individuals.

Mr Tomassi said all three, as well as others not before the court, were involved in ''wholesale'' defrauding of banks on a ''massive scale''.

He said they operated a system that ''milked'' the data base at NatWest's card transaction centre at Southend-on-Sea, Essex.

Mr Tomassi went on: ''The system that was in place and dishonestly put into action was so effective that indeed the National Westminster Bank could hardly keep up with the level of fraud.''

Mr Tomassi claimed Mr Boparan had recruited at least four people working at the bank to help him carry out his scheme.

''Instead of going in and doing their job, they rifled through the data base looking at confidential information, printing it off and selling it. This case has demonstrated there was a ready market for such information,'' the barrister told the court.

''This case, you may think, is interesting and indeed particularly serious in view of the fact that according to the prosecution you are dealing here with figures in excess of #1m and a fraud that, had it not been stopped, was potentially limitless.''

But the barrister said that, despite the scheme's high level of sophistication and organisation, it was caught out in the ''most mundane'' way.

A police constable walking the beat noticed that a car parked outside Mr Boparan's home did not have a tax disc.

Further inquiries revealed the vehicle had been bought fraudulently, and his fingerprints were found on the car. Inside was a wealth of incriminating evidence including a credit card imprinter, a large number of cards, and bank screen printouts.

The trial continues.

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