Alistair Greig’s victims were many and varied. Over the course of 13 years, the North-east financier conned hard-working families out of £13 million. In the second instalment of our series, we look at the impact his criminal scheme had on real people – and reveal the inside track on how police and prosecutors brought him down.
Section Three: Alistair Greig’s Victims
It is hard to state the true number of people conned out of their savings by Alistair Greig. Perhaps he is the only one who will ever know.
One of the difficulties in finding an exact number is that some victims may never have come forward, out of embarrassment.
Some of Alistair Greig’s victims were untraceable and a small minority may never have noticed missing funds, due to chaotic financial management or due to vulnerabilities such as dementia.
Another factor is different organisations have compiled figures relating to victims for different purposes.
The Financial Conduct Authority said there were 279, based on documents its staff found during a search of the Midas office. Police said there were 184 victims, based on an assessment of how many cases had passed the threshold of criminality. The Crown Office, meanwhile, said there were 174 victims.
These were listed in documents presented as evidence in Greig’s trial as part of a “joint minute” – papers containing information both the prosecution and defence agree are true, and presented in court as evidence.
But that list of 174 victims comes with caveats, as 20 were family members listed jointly as one “victim”. Individuals may not be included on various lists because they passed away before the trial began or because they did not want to be involved in the court cases – often because they did get their promised return from Greig and felt guilty after learning their profit came from other people’s misery.
To underline this point, the Financial Services Compensation Scheme told us 194 people applied for compensation, though seven were turned down.
Some of those may not have been witnesses in the court cases, or they may have been family members listed in the court case as one “victim” but who were able to claim for compensation separately under finance law.
Almost all the victims hail from the North-east, people who had made an honest living as fishermen, farmers, self-employed business owners and even financiers. One man with detailed knowledge of the case said Greig also fleeced people living in Bristol, Australia and Singapore, though no such claim formed part of his prosecution.
We have trawled through hundreds of pages of court documents, including papers from Greig’s criminal trial and from a civil case brought in London by some of his victims.
Court records show Alistair Greig’s victims gave him a total of £10.3m and only got back £2.5m. Fifty-four of them lost everything. In court, Greig was found guilty of accepting £13m of deposits and of obtaining £12.9m by fraud.
One man, Bruce Sellar, paid in £25,750 – and got just £50 back.
The youngest, Gemma Watt, was aged just 22 at the time prosecution papers were gathered in 2015, while the oldest was aged 88.
At least two of the victims passed away between the end of the fraud in 2014 and the court case in 2020.
A senior source close to the investigation said: “We know a number of victims were frustrated by how long it took to bring the prosecution, but this is one of the biggest frauds known in the Scottish legal system and time was needed to cover every detail.”
The first documented victim was Peter Duff, who deposited £85,000 in 2006. One court record said: “Mr Duff reinvested his original deposit and topped up the total amount deposited over (seven years).
“Mr Duff has lost approximately £200,000 as a result of the Midas scheme.”
There were other horror stories – tales that ripped families and communities apart.
One man and wife invested and got the promised payout, so recommended it to the woman’s father, Donald Ross, who put in £286,300. He got just £59,174 back.
Another victim was Brian Mackenzie, the managing director of Inverurie-based Mackenzie Life Jacket Conversions. The 62-year-old, who had made money inventing a money-saving gadget for life jackets, heard about the scheme at a business networking event Graham Hudson described earlier.
There was such an abuse of trust.”
There, Mr Mackenzie dealt with Midas financial adviser Allan Milne, who did the hard work while Greig indulged on the proceeds of his crime at his £290,000 sprawling six-bedroom house in the picturesque village of Cairnbulg.
There is no suggestion Mr Milne did anything illegal: Prosecutors have said Greig was the only person associated with the case who committed crime.
He had built up a business relationship with Mr Mackenzie over the years, helping him access a number of legitimate financial products.
One court document said: “Mr Mackenzie had a good and trusting relationship with Mr Milne, who told him that the scheme was something which he could not afford to miss.
“Mr Mackenzie’s nephew Magnus Brown (director of Inverurie-based Mackenzie Fire Protection) also invested in the scheme.”
Court documents show Mr Mackenzie’s brother also invested on his recommendation – so there were altogether three people from the same family who had money invested in Greig’s scam, plus two of Mr Mackenzie’s friends.
‘Broke down in tears’
Then in July 2014, Mr Mackenzie discovered something was wrong with the scheme so called Mr Milne who, according to one court document “sought to reassure him that there was nothing to worry about.”
A few weeks later, Mr Milne told Mr Mackenzie what he knew about the fraud. Angry, Mr Mackenzie said he had only invested because of what Mr Milne had told him. “Mr Milne broke down in tears,” one court document said.
Brian Mackenzie invested £155,000 expecting a 5.25% return. He got just £1,355 back. Graham Hudson described the moment he first heard the scheme had hit the rocks.
He told us: “I remember it as clear as a bell because I was down at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow in July 2014. I was told by Midas it was all rumour and nonsense. I felt sick.
He said Greig would almost always get others to unwittingly do his “dirty work”, adding: ““There was such an abuse of trust.”
People felt particularly aggrieved because it wasn’t just spare cash for them. It was their life savings or their pension.”
That is not to say Greig was incapable of persuading victims to hand over their funds.
One source told us: “He was a smooth talker. He could charm the birds out of the trees.
“His whole thing was making sure there was never a problem, only a solution. If there was someone who had an issue, he could find a solution, or knew someone who could – he was all about the deal.”
Greig sold the scheme face to face to his own Midas colleague John Cutler. One court document said: “Mr Cutler discussed the scheme with Greig, having heard about it in the office.
“He invested approximately £200,000 which had been bequeathed to him and his two sisters, one of whom was disabled.
“Mr Cutler recommended the scheme to other members of his family and to one or two clients.” It is not known whether Mr Cutler got anything back.
‘You want to talk to Alistair Greig’
Another source, who played a role in the early part of the investigation, said: “Greig had clients he went back a long way with.
“Some came from little networks who, having invested in this scheme and apparently having received fantastic rates of return, would tell their friends about it.
“Someone would tell their mates down the pub ‘you want to talk to Alistair Greig’ and, very often, they would call him.
“He would just say ‘I have a special relationship with RBS. If you want to put your money in, I will share it with you.’”
The source close to the investigation told us: “There were some horrible situations. There were people who had invested for a sister with dementia or for an elderly relative. The proceeds were to pay for their long-term care.
“People felt particularly aggrieved because it wasn’t just spare cash for them. It was their life savings or their pension.”
One victim, who spoke to us on condition of anonymity, lost his life savings and said: “It destroyed my life. I lost a six-figure sum. I’ve spent years working with lawyers to get justice.
“I’ve spoken to 70 other victims. This has caused a lot of stress. It’s caused death for folk, strokes and cancer.
“I got a letter from the police. I thought ‘This doesn’t seem very good’. When I read it, I thought it was some kind of misprint. It was a nightmare. I’ve had six years of absolute misery. I was almost spewing in shock.”
Another victim 69-year-old Mark Ansell, of Durris, told Greig’s trial at the High Court in Edinburgh that he and his wife could no longer retire from their dog-care business as Greig conned them out of £138,000.
Mr Ansell said: “My wife has cancer. We were hoping to move to warmer climes to help with her condition but we have been unable to do that.”
Another to take the stand was self-employed builder Norman Masson, 66, who lost £31,747.
He told the court becoming a victim had given him anxiety and he was planning to spend some of the money on helping his daughter with a mortgage deposit.
He added: “It’s had a massive effect.”
According to court records, the victim who lost the most cash was David Buchan, who was duped out of £409,353.
Court records show he deposited the entire amount on July 31, 2013, and never got a penny back. Another of those conned was Peterhead farmer Myles Creighton and his wife Morag, who invested £135,000 and lost all but £2,400.
Of that investment, £10,000 was paid in cash after the couple sold a caravan.
Referring to Kevin Alexander, who is listed as a Midas director up until February 2012, civil case documents stated: “In October 2014, following a press report about Midas concerning allegations of fraud, Mr Creighton spoke to Mr Alexander, who assured him everything was fine. Subsequently, Mr Creighton requested repayment but did not receive it.”
There were dozens of similar heart-wrenching tales of massive financial loss across the North-east – and it was for them police and prosecutors wanted to get justice.
Section 4: The Investigation
In mid-2014, rumours began to circulate not everything was right at Midas.
Court documents show some of Alistair Greig’s victims contacted Midas about the rumours and were reassured, albeit temporarily.
The first real signs of trouble came in the summer of 2014 when Midas director Keith Ingram, now aged 41, raised the alarm. He contacted a firm called The Sense Network to say he thought Midas – and Alistair Greig – were performing functions contrary to the deal it had with Sense.
One court document said: “Mr Ingram…was not aware the scheme was a Ponzi scheme.”
Sense alerted the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) which executed a search warrant at Midas’s Little Belmont Street office in September 2014.
The FCA then contacted Police Scotland’s economic crime unit, who launched their biggest ever fraud probe. Just weeks later, officers would raid Greig’s property and he would find himself speaking to detectives in a room beside his lawyer.
Ironically, Police Scotland’s previous encounter with Greig was just seven months earlier – when they presented him with an award on behalf of his late grandfather.
George Greig and the ‘Monocled Mutineer’
Thirty four years before Alistair was born, George was working as a police constable in the scenic Moray village of Tomintoul when he was propelled into overnight fame.
On that day in June 1920, PC Greig was called to check out suspicious activity at a bothy. What he didn’t know was inside lay one of the world’s most wanted men – Francis Percy Toplis.
Toplis was alleged to have taken part in a mutiny of soldiers in France in 1917 and got his nickname from his days wearing a stylish gold monocle to impress the ladies while claiming to be an army officer.
The rebel soldier shot a taxi driver dead in England in the spring of 1920 and went on the run, ending up in that bothy while making worldwide headlines.
PC Greig entered the bothy – and Toplis shot him in the shoulder.
Toplis would end up being shot dead by police in Cumbria a few days later and PC Greig lived to tell the tale. He made history as the first police officer ever to be shot on active duty.
Some 94 years later in April 2014, Chief Superintendent Mark McLaren presented an official commendation certificate in memory of PC Greig to his grandson, Alistair Greig.
Greig told the Press and Journal at the time: “It’s an honour to receive the award. My grandfather was a very respected person over the years so it’s great for him to be recognised.”
PC Greig wasn’t the only family hero.
His son – Alistair’s dad – Bill was the dux of his school – the highest-ranking student – and listed in the Army in his 20s.
The Forces took Bill all over Europe and even to Africa. Such was his contribution to the war effort, he was awarded five medals and a commendation letter from Dwight D Eisenhower – the senior US military general who would later become president.
Bill went on to marry Dorothy and they had three children – Ialeen, David and Alistair.
He died peacefully at Inverurie Hospital in 2007 at a time where his son’s criminal enterprise was – unbeknownst to many – riding high.
But it came crashing down on November 11, 2014 when police searched four homes – two were in Fraserburgh, one was in Aberdeen and the final one a detached house in the leafy Lincolnshire suburb of Sutterton near Boston, purchased for £249,500 in March 2010.
From day one his attitude is ‘this is nothing to do with me, I’m a victim here as well’.”
DCI Iain McPhail said: “He [Greig] was living in Boston at the time. He does have extended family in Boston. He moved several years before this was found out and moved back and forth [between Lincolnshire and Aberdeen].
“We didn’t know if Greig would be present at any property. If word filtered back to him before we were getting opportunity to see documentation, there was massive concern he would take steps to cover his tracks a wee bit more than what he had done.”
Police found so much material it took 14 months to sift through before they could take it to prosecutors and it took a team of 40 officers to work on the case.
DCI McPhail said: “I don’t think in Scotland there has been anything on that scale.”
One source close to Greig told us he went into hiding in England – ducking investors who got wind of the raids and wanted to know where their money was.
Greig even told Colin Stewart, the relative of two victims, he was in Italy and would sort it out as soon as he got back.
After the searches, Greig went into defence mode. He wouldn’t be interviewed but agreed to come in to read a statement to police.
DCI McPhail said: “[His explanation was] he had his own separate clients, that he could basically provide any losses they incurred and that all the other advisers [within Midas] had their own clients that they were responsible for.”
But Greig’s story was flawed and he eventually withdrew cooperation, giving “no comment” interviews and blaming unspecified third parties.
DCI McPhail said: “From day one his attitude is ‘this is nothing to do with me, I’m a victim here as well’.”
Meanwhile, Greig won a legal bid to unfreeze his bank accounts, despite the investigation against him still going on.
According to one source, he used that window of opportunity to refund family and friends money they had lost.
The source said: “It’s hard to know why he did that – whether it was in the hope he could then prove to the authorities that his intention all along was to give them their money back, or whether it was just to ensure people will want to speak to him when he comes out of jail.
“Either way, he didn’t try to refund any of the other victims, the ones who weren’t his friends or family.”
It is understood that Greig also contacted tenants of holiday homes in two coastal towns in the Highlands to tell them to pay their rent directly to him – despite a previous instruction to those tenants to pay their rent directly to a bank, to pay off a loan Greig’s company had taken out.
As the police investigation continued, the biggest challenge for officers was informing the victims.
They knew of 184 and making that initial contact would require time and great sensitivity.
DCI McPhail said: “We had initial phone calls with every single victim. What I wanted to do was have that first personal touch to folk so they understand ‘we’re here, we’re doing our best to help, but bear with us because it’s going to take a lot of time to do it because of the sheer volume of witnesses and statements to take’.
“Most of them were totally unaware there was anything wrong.”
Victims each filled out a police survey and the next stage was boots on the ground, with police visiting each of them, taking statements and recovering documents. Such was the scale of the task, detectives had to ask other police departments for help.
DCI McPhail said: “We managed to secure the services of staff from local policing to do that with us because the time it would have taken us to do it on our own (within the economic crime unit) would have been huge.
“We had people seconded into the team for a good few months to do that. It was all hands-on deck. We had people having really emotional conversations with them because this is people’s life savings, this is their pensions.
“There were people who had saved up money for a family home and that is all of a sudden taken away from them.”
‘They put faith in Greig’
Police created a quarterly newsletter for Alistair Greig’s victims and worked behind the scenes to build up a picture of his crimes.
DCI McPhail said: “The people in the North-east have a lot of trust in people and that reflects on the close communities they have got. They put faith in Greig to manage their money with very little governance or scrutiny in relation to that.
“A lot of people got back the interest element of [their investment]. It created that trust so they were willing to invest more.
“But they don’t see the money. They see a bit of paper from a letter issued every six months to say [their funds] are rolled over. People are unaware that that money isn’t there.”
Once police built a case, DC Murray delivered eight boxes of evidence to the Crown Office in January 2016 – and it was over to its staff to make the case watertight.
A source close to the investigation said: “Victims felt ashamed, silly and embarrassed for having fallen for it and also angry that their money has been used to fund somebody else’s lifestyle.
“It’s their nest egg and they have worked hard for it. But that’s what drives investigators to do their job – to make sure people get justice.”
When asked if Midas staff could have known about the fraud, the source said: “Greig ran it all. There was no evidence to suggest others had been aware of, or involved in, the fraud.”
All other Midas staff spoke openly and honestly to police and gave consistent stories.
Greig’s also duped his now ex-wife Judi.
Robert Morfee, a lawyer for Alistair Greig’s victims, praised her for the way she reacted after police told her what her husband had been up to over the years.
In one court document, Judi, now aged 65, described her husband as “a ‘very, very controlling man, no-one would dare not do what he said’.”
The document added: “Greig was unquestionably ‘the boss’ of Midas. The evidence showed that he was an accomplished and persuasive liar and manipulator of others.”
Mr Morfee, a now-retired consult for Cubism Law, told us: “Judi was a heroine. She is a good egg. She was a tremendous help to the victims.
“It’s unfair to say she was part of the fraud. She was a housewife who did what her husband said, believing he was honest. He was manipulative. She was a victim as much as anybody else.”
I’m not saying he’s Walter Mitty-like but there is a bit of an air of him being detached from reality. He has got no understanding or concept of what he has done.”
Another source added: “I can see how people may question why she didn’t know about her then-husband’s actions, but he was an expert conman. I think sometimes he even conned himself.
“When you look at this case, Judi was key in providing the victims with enough information so that they could get compensation. Without her actions, they would all be a lot worse off.
“When the criminal enterprise ended, Alistair went to ground in England, while his wife was left staying in Collieston in Aberdeenshire with victims knocking at her door. She was sympathetic and helpful towards them.”
Colin Stewart, who had two relatives who were victims in the case, said: “The help Judi gave was crucial in the case. It would have been easy for her to go to ground but her moral stance – to help the victims in any way she could – is admirable.”
Finally, the case reached court at the start of 2020 – five-and-a-half years after the first searches were carried out at Greig’s property.
Greig denied a string of allegations so it went before a jury, which had police a little worried.
DCI McPhail said: “When it goes to trial there is always that thing in the back of your mind ‘is there something technically going to come out or something going to be exposed that we’ve not thought of?’
“We were really comfortable that we hadn’t overlooked anything, but the fear is always there.”
Police and Crown Office staff left no stone unturned – and there would be no Houdini act for Greig.
A jury at the High Court in Edinburgh found him guilty on April 15, 2020.
For many, the only surprising thing about the court case was that Greig continued to point the finger elsewhere.
DCI McPhail said: “His defence is total pie-in-the-sky nonsense. I don’t know if he was putting his head in the sand hoping it goes away.”
DC Murray added: “I’m not saying he’s Walter Mitty-like but there is a bit of an air of him being detached from reality. He has got no understanding or concept of what he has done.”
To add insult to injury, Greig had to watch from the dock as Judi – who he had betrayed over many years – sat in the public gallery alongside the victims, who she had provided support to.
One source told us Greig did not think his ex-wife would be there, but Mr Stewart contacted her to say Greig would be taking the stand, so she travelled from Aberdeen to Edinburgh especially to see what he had to say.
The source said: “When he saw her there in the public gallery, sitting with them, he was not best pleased. It was almost as though he saw that as being betrayed – and as a bigger issue than the fact he was about to be put behind bars for a long time.”
Mr Stewart said: “Judi and I even socialised in a group that night, while Alistair was in the cells.”
On sentencing Greig to 14 years in prison the judge, Lord Tyre, said: “It is all the more astonishing that even now…you continue to deny responsibility and to claim to be dumbfounded at having been convicted.
Delight and relief
“If that is truly your position, I can only conclude that you are as adept at deceiving yourself as you were at deceiving the victims of your fraudulent Ponzi scheme.”
DCI McPhail said: “I felt utter delight at the sentence. It’s double what I expected. It is probably one of the highest sentences we’ve ever heard of in relation to fraud or a Ponzi scheme in Scotland or the UK.
“I was pleased mainly for the victims. The way they conducted themselves in the trial period, in spite of all the hardships put on to them by Greig.”
DC Murray added: “We were absolutely delighted with the sentence, but there was relief as well, because of the concern about technicalities.
“You’ve also got the 184 victims in the background. The sentence gave something to them.”
The source at the centre of the probe said: “I was pleased the sentence was a very large one. It’s probably the largest we’ve had in Scotland for a fraudulent scheme. When the verdict comes it does not bring victims the closure you might get in other kind of cases, because they still lost money.”
TOMORROW: We reveal how a watchdog missed a chance to snare Greig years before he was caught — because it misplaced an email. PLUS watch our behind-the-scene video on how our series was researched and produced.
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