A WELL-KNOWN expat designer has been accused of receiving up to €1million to fund her fashion business and property portfolio from a financial advisory company that collapsed after racking up huge debts on Spain’s Costa Blanca in 2017.
Jody Smart, 43, director of Continental Wealth Management (CWM), allegedly drained the cash in the two year-period before CWM’s shutdown left hundreds of investors more than €22million out of pocket, it can be revealed.
Bank statements shown to the Olive Press indicate €999,435 was paid out to fashion label Jody Bell SL and property holding company Mercurio Conpro SL – both registered in Jody’s name – between 2015 and 2017.
The €999,435 represents nearly one third of the unlicensed CWM’s income over the same period, which Spain’s financial regulator deemed was gathered ‘in breach of the law’ according to a January statement.
Londoner Jody was also paid a €144,000 salary as the company’s sole director – despite telling a court that she ‘did not know what it meant to be the director of a company’ and was only involved in ‘marketing and PR’.
In a series of shocking declarations given to Denia’s Court of Instruction No.3 this month, it has emerged the company could ill afford to pay these huge sums ‘without falling into losses’.
Worse, it comes as it emerges that dozens of victims left destitute and penniless by the Denia-based CWM are seeking criminal action against Smart and former partner, and company boss, Darren Kirby.
In the first case to reach the courts, three British claimants are pursuing claims of aggravated fraud, fake accounting and belonging to a criminal organisation – though no charges have yet been brought.
The complaints concern bungled house transactions, unpaid loans and failed pension investments that lost the claimants over €1.3million between them.
One of the victims, Mark Davison, tragically died, aged 59, in July this year after CWM’s September 2017 collapse left him with just £20,000 from initial investments of more than £800,000.
Davison was diagnosed with depression just weeks after the collapse, before turning to alcohol abuse and developing type-2 diabetes, according to a video recording just before his death.
His body, covered with lesions and sores, had lain undiscovered for at least two days in the mid-summer heat at his home in Sanet.
“Mark died as a result of what had been done to him,” Timothy Benjamin, a fellow claimant, told the Olive Press.
“By the end he didn’t want the daylight to appear.”
Benjamin, 67, likewise felt ‘ashamed’ after he lost his £235,000 private pension, reinvested by CWM into ‘risky’ investments, via QROPS.
In his official testimony, he told the court he had also transferred £325,000 from a property sale to CWM on the basis the firm was investing it in a villa in Monte Pego.
But court papers revealed £200,000 went directly to the bank account of the wife of a former CWM employee – Eddie Walker – while £100,000 could not be traced.
The money never went to buy the property, leaving Benjamin scrambling to purchase a property with money left over from the sale of his London house he’d lived in for 65 years.
“We just wanted some money to tick over and live a quiet life,” Benjamin, who worked as an engineer in the health industry, said.
“But I was honeyed and scammed. All we have between us is my state pension, while my partner’s unfit to work after a massive stroke and I’m battling stage four colon cancer,” added the former chairman of the City of London Crime Prevention Association.
The third claimant, named by court papers as Sally, is understood to have given CWM a €70,000 loan that was never repaid.
While Darren Kirby failed to turn up in court, former financial director Alan Gorringe, also under suspicion in legal proceedings, insisted the victims were ‘financially groomed’.
In testimony, he confirmed that Jody and Darren lived together and Jody received €12,000 a month from the company.
In a Channel 4 lifestyle programme How the Other Half Live on her fashion business, in 2016, Jody boasted of being worth €13 million while showing off her floor-to-ceiling shoe collection with limited edition Jimmy Choos.
According to former staff members she travelled twice to New York fashion week and bought Louis Vuitton handbags at €5,000 a time.
The pair had staff at one of her properties in Benidoleig, currently on the market for €760,000, and a leasing deal for CWM yielded a Ferrari 458 Speciale, a Bentley Continental and a Porsche Panamera, among others.
However, in her court declaration earlier this month, Smart claimed she never ‘dealt with any of the accounts’ despite being officially sole director, according to Spain’s mercantile register.
She added that she had never studied either economics or finance and was trained as a fashion designer, fitness instructor and makeup artist.
Likewise, she said she knew ‘nothing’ about the transactions involving the three claimants.
She claimed that ex-partner Kirby ‘controlled all the money’ and that financial transfers were executed by Gorringe, who had power of attorney over her accounts.
She said Kirby, who did not respond to a court summons for cross-examination, would become physically abusive when she didn’t do what he wanted.
Jody did not respond to requests for comment.