Nicolas Giannos and Rosita Stanfield appeals denied (uFun Club)
I was expecting a decision on Nicolas Giannos and Rosita Stanfield’s appeal in October, but turns out a decision was made last month.
Long story short, both Giannos and Stanfield have lost their appeal and both convictions have been upheld.
Both were convicted of obtaining money by deception, with Giannos copping an additional conviction for false accounting.
An appeal was immediately filed and heard early last month.
A panel of three judges ruled on the appeal, with some interesting information coming to light in their ruling.
Nicolas Giannos claimed he had never been married on his immigration form, which is curious considering he transferred some of the received funds to his “wife and children” back in the UK.
Upon being questioned by police, ‘Mr. Gianno admitted that he had no wife and children.‘
A New Zealand report covering the appeal verdict refers to Giannos and Stanfield as “a couple”.
Giannos and Stanfield pitched that uFun Club investors would make a 1000% ROI or more within two months.
Despite a bank employee recording a presentation in which the assurance was made (which was submitted as evidence), Giannos denied
telling investors that their money would increase tenfold although he admitted there definitely were “indications” that could occur.
The Judges rejected Giannos’ denial and accepted, based on submitted evidence, that the 1000% ROI marketing pitch was made.
They even went so far to claim that Giannos, based on later clarifications to the Central Bank, ‘accepted that what (he) had been telling the investors about a tenfold increase was “impossible.”‘
One of the claims raised in Giannos and Stanfield’s defence was that funds they manage to send overseas was “personal money” Giannos brought with him into Samoa.
The prosecution asserted that the transferred funds were deposits by local investors Giannos and Stanfield had pitched uFun Club to.
The Judge’s appeal decision observes that Giannos and Stanfield both checked they were not bringing $20,000 or more into Samoa on their immigration papers.
The Chief Justice said there was nothing to support this other than Mr. Gianno’s assertions, which he did not believe.
Nothing had been said at presentations about “activation points”.
The Chief Justice concluded that the only reasonable inference to be drawn from the circumstances was that when the appellants made the false representations they had an intention to deceive the investors.
The appeal judges concluded that all four elements of obtaining by deception had been “proved beyond reasonable doubt”.
Another point of contention was the assertion by Giannos and Stanfield that uFun Club in Thailand was an “unrelated company”.
Like the Chief Justice, we were entirely unimpressed by the appellants’ assertion through their counsel, and the evidence of Mr. Gianno, that the Ufun company shut down in Bangkok was unconnected with “their” Ufun – that it must have been an unrelated company which had taken the same name.
Their cause was not assisted by the inclusion in their slide show presentation to the Central Bank and others of a photograph of the Ufun building which the Thai police officer identified as the one which was the subject of the police raid.
Nor were we impressed by the submission that any closure of the Bangkok operations of Ufun would have had no impact on its operations in Malaysia and Indonesia.
Bangkok was the headquarters of the Ufun group. Ms Stanfield herself had said so in a letter to the Prime Minister of Samoa.
The judges also reasoned that Giannos and Stanfield must have known about the Thailand raids and arrests, because they had purportedly told the Central Bank they’d contacted uFun Club for “clarification” after the raid had taken place.
It is inconceivable that the forcible closure of the head office and the arrest of senior executives would have passed unnoticed by (Giannos and Stanfield) even if, as they suggested, their dealings had been with the Malaysian branch.
The deliberate failure to tell this to the investors they were enticing with representations of large increases in value was a very material omission of a particular that made their representation a deception.
With respect to Giannos’ false account convictions, they were quashed on a technicality;
The two ANZ International Telegraphic Transfer Application forms cannot properly be said to be “documents required or used for accounting purposes” in terms of s.198 of the Crimes Act.
The forms referenced were required and used by Giannos to make the “gift” transfers to his fictional wife and kids in the UK.
The final part of the appeal was against the imposed sentences.
The defense attorney had argued that on the basis of their being no loss to investors (owing to funds frozen), the sentences imposed were “manifestly excessive”.
(The defense attorney) was not, however, able to refer us to any Samoan precedents suggesting that the sentences were out of line when the level of the amounts obtained by deception is taken into account.
There were six victims of the offending who were induced to part with an aggregate sum of $41,149.
Giannos and Stanfield, in a calculated and pre-meditated way, were preying on naive and/or gullible victims.
They took advantage also of Ms Stanfield’s family connection, so that there was an element of abuse of trust.
The overturned false accounting convictions were deemed “minor” in comparison to obtaining by deception, and ruled not to have a significant impact on sentencing.
Nicolas Giannos and Rosita Stanfield will serve their respective three-year and fifteen month sentences in full.