Rugby businessman accused of fraud cleared after trial collapses

Warwick Crown Court sits at Leamington Justice Centre
Warwick Crown Court sits at Leamington Justice Centre

A Rugby businessman accused of defrauding another company by allegedly failing to hand over more than £70,000 has been cleared after the trial against him collapsed.

William Smith had pleaded not guilty at Warwick Crown Court to a charge of fraudulent trading by carrying on a business, RTP Solutions Ltd, with intent to defraud its creditors.

But after the managing director of the company he was accused of defrauding had given evidence, the prosecution decided to offer no further evidence against him.

Judge Sylvia de Bertodano discharged the jury and entered a not guilty verdict on Smith, aged 64, of Teeswater Close, Long Lawford, Rugby.

And she told him: “There is no evidence you were involved in anything fraudulent. You came before this court as a man of good character, and you leave as a man of good character.

“There is a financial dispute which may rumble on, but it is nothing to do with this court.”

Prosecutor Sally Cairns said Smith was the sole director and only member of staff at RTP Solutions. He was accused of defrauding Ralph Coleman International, based on the Bermuda Industrial Estate in Nuneaton.

It was said that in December 2009 there was an agreement between Smith and RCI’s managing director Alan Pitman that RTP Solutions should act as an agent to negotiate a contract with a Coventry-based company, Gefco.

“The contract was negotiated and put in place, and in February 2010 RCI began washing a large number of crates for Gefco. RCI would invoice RTP for the value of the business, and RTP would then invoice Gefco. Gefco would pay RTP who would then pay RCI, and the defendant’s company would get a percentage of any profit,” according to the prosecution case.

Miss Cairns said RCI raised invoices for work valued at more than £120,000 – and over the first few months there were intermittent payments from RTP totalling £46,500.

But following a meeting between Smith and Mr Pitman in July 2010, no further payments were made to RCI despite Gefco making payments totalling a further £64,000 to Smith’s company.

RCI contacted Gefco and it was agreed they would deal directly with each-other, while at the same time RCI began civil court proceedings to recover what it said it was owed from RTP. And in January 2012 the county court made a judgement in RCI’s favour for £92,000 – which Miss Cairns said was never paid.

But questioning Mr Pitman, Smith’s solicitor Richard Murray pointed out that in his police statement and in a document prepared by his solicitors for the county court hearing, he had said RTP was acting as agents for Ralph Coleman International.

“The real situation is that this contract was between RTP and Gefco, and that you were sub-contracting for RTP.” Mr Pitman agreed.

Mr Murray said: “That is not appointing someone as your agent, is it? There is a difference between you being a sub-contractor and Mr Smith acting as your agent to get you that contract.” Mr Pitman accepted: “Yes, there is a difference.”

Mr Murray put to him: “So when in your statement you describe Mr Smith acting as your agent to secure a contract, that was never the case, was it.”

The RCI managing director conceded: “When you put it in those words, no.”

After Mr Pitman had finished giving evidence, Judge de Bertodano adjourned the case and told Miss Cairns: “I’m going to give you a chance to consider this. What’s the fraudulent trading? It’s clearly not on the basis on which you had opened it.”

When the case resumed, Miss Cairns said: “In the light of Mr Pitman’s evidence and the uncertainty over the terms of the contract, there’s not a reasonable prospect of conviction.”

And the judge told the jury: “This may well have ended up as a situation where one businessman owes another businessman a sum of money, but that is not what the criminal courts are for. There is no evidence anyone was defrauding anyone.

“On the papers it read like a strong case, but the reason we have jury trials is so the evidence can be tested.

“You have seen an example of how cross-examination can totally undermine a prosecution case.”