Lawyer grasps at bridging finance to avoid £7.5m loss

Lawyer grasps at bridging finance to avoid £7.5m loss


A leading barrister who has been jailed for stealing had taken out bridging loans after his finances spiralled out of control in early 2008 and his property empire crashed, a Leeds Crown Court heard.

David Friesner, 46, was sentenced to three years in jail on Friday but the Court heard his ordeal started when the credit crunch hit in 2008 and was soon drowning in debt as he didn’t see it coming. He was unable to get tenants and was left paying multiple mortgages, the Manchester Evening News reported.

A judge was told how Friesner had a property business of almost 20 houses valued at around £7.5 million in 2008, with just under £4 million of mortgages. But when the credit crunch began to hit lending institutions that year, his problems began to mount - especially as he had up to a £1 million in unsecured loans he had used to finance the refurbishment of properties.

The court was then informed that Friesner became increasingly desperate, taking out ‘crippling’ bridging loans, some charging 2 per cent a week.

He was struggling to service his debts owing within his property business due to the increasing difficulty both in selling properties and obtaining credit to service the debts.

Friesner was even unable to sell his apartments to help clear debts. As his overdraft grew out of control he also borrowed money from friends and family but his final resort was to steal £72,500 from his employers.

The judge heard how he convinced his chambers' finance director to forward him a series of 12 payments, telling her they were loans.

Friesner, who was deputy head of 9 St John Street, had no authority to demand the cash and, the court heard, never had any prospect of paying it back.

After being found guilty and given a three year sentence for the theft Friesner has only been ordered to repay just £1 back to his employers.

The judge made the nominal £1 repayment order as he now has no assets, the Manchester Evening News disclosed.

Friesner was a well-known character in legal circles during his high-earning heyday – owning a fleet of vehicles including replicas of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and the Pink Panther car whilst also owning a number of luxury cars including an Aston Martin, a TVR Chimera and a Ferrari.

Jailing Friesner, Mr Justice Singh said: “You, perhaps more than anyone else, ought to have known that what you were doing was both dishonest and unlawful. You have brought dishonour upon an honourable profession and shame upon yourself and your family.”

John Beggs QC, defending, handed in testimonials from colleagues across the legal profession and even a member of the judiciary.

Mr Beggs also emphasised how his client's problems developed out of the 2008 financial crisis - a situation he could not have predicted.

"It wasn't obvious to governments the world over. It wasn't obvious to economists working with erstwhile leading banks," the barrister told the court.”

He said: "Financial carnage ensued."

But the judge pointed out that many people in this country and around the world had been affected by the financial downturn without resorting to criminal activities.

Friesner, of Bury New Road, Prestwich, Greater Manchester, who is married with daughters aged five and eight, admitted taking the cash between October 1, 2008 and November 25, 2009.

Malcolm Taylor, special casework lawyer in the complex casework unit at CPS Yorkshire and Humberside, said: "His professional life is now ruined as a result of his own actions and this case sends out a very clear message that no one is above the law."

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