'I had no idea my friend was doing anything wrong'.
Byline: Thomas Deacon Reporter firstname.lastname@example.org
AMAN accused of helping his friend to launder money stolen from the Bermuda Government denied knowing he was involved in criminal activity, a court heard.
Joel Ismail is charged with helping his friend Jeffrey Bevan, an accountant, to launder money by buying properties with some of the PS1.3m he transferred from his employer into his own account.
Ismail said he "absolutely, categorically" had no idea Bevan was involved in any criminal activity.
Cardiff Crown Court heard yesterday that Ismail was asked by Bevan for a character reference for a job working for the Bermudan government.
Ismail said Bevan managed the tax returns for his company, MLI Solutions, named after his daughter's initials.
Ismail said he set up the company to work through as a consultant for other companies, including Transport for London.
Timothy Evans, prosecuting, said the reference was exaggerated.
Mr Evans said: "Did he [Bevan] tell you what to write? Ismail said: "Not word for word."
Mr Evans added: "I suggest what was being put forward in an exaggerated way was to assist your friend.
"You looked up to your friend so much you were prepared to put a character reference like that."
Ismail replied: "I don't agree it is misleading."
Bevan admits transferring and converting criminal property, while his friend Ismail and financial adviser Paul Charity deny the charges against them and are on trial.
A former boss of Ismail at NTL, Neil Ward, gave a character reference in court describing Ismail as a "good family man" who "can be a bit naive".
He added: "I would trust him with my bank and my children."
In court on Thursday Ismail said he started to invest in rental properties in 2008 as his salary increased. The court heard he received a "big payout" from Skype shares in 2011 and developed what he called his Swansea Business Plan.
Ismail told the jury he planned to invest in properties in Swansea because they were cheaper than in his home town of Leicester. The defendant said he and Bevan each agreed to put in PS50,000, with himself managing the purchase process.
Questioned about his relationship with Bevan, he replied: "I had known him for a very long time."
He told the jury they shared an interest in sport and he knew Bevan had worked hard to achieve his accountancy qualifications.
The court heard Bevan sent his friend emails from Bermuda - which were not true - telling him he had been promoted and had got a pay rise.
Bevan, 50, of Orchid Court, Cwmbran, admitted three counts of transferring criminal property and 10 counts of converting criminal property.
Ismail, 42, of Hall Farm Crescent, Leicester, denies four counts of converting criminal property.
Charity, 52, of Bushey Close, Leicester, denies three counts of converting criminal property and one of perverting the course of justice.
The trial continues.
From left, Jeffrey Bevan, Joel Ismail and Paul Charity