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Vic: Pretend prince scammed investors for luxury life: court

06 Nov 2008 6:46 PM
By Melissa Iaria

MELBOURNE, Nov 6 AAP - A Melbourne man posed as a rich Arabian prince to con investors out of more than7 million to finance his luxury lifestyle, a court has been told.

Omar Jihad Yusuf, 40, claimed he owned three banks, a40 million home and three islands in Australia, the Victorian Supreme Court heard.

The court was told he posted on his website photographs of himself in helicopters, jets and yachts that he claimed were his own and even had an Australia Post stamp bearing his supposed royal picture.

Yusuf pleaded guilty to 126 counts of obtaining property or financial advantage by deception.

The court heard the deception began after the father of five decided to getthe public to invest in his company, On The Go Transport, to raise funds to buy trucks.

Prosecutor Peter Rose SC said Yusuf registered the company in 2001 and hired staff to help lure investors.

Yusuf, formerly of Roxburgh Park, courted prospective employees and investors by presenting himself as a rich international businessman.

He referred to himself as a prince - an honorary title he claimed was bestowed on him by the Saudi royal family - and which he used when signing company, bank and travel documents.

He attracted 109 investors who were defrauded almost7.3 million.

Yusuf's bank accounts revealed more than9 million in investor deposits intended to buy trucks, but only1.045 million was used for this purpose. Healso paid no tax, Mr Rose told the pre-sentence hearing today.

Most investor funds were used for his lavish personal spending which included a Ferrari, a55,000 race horse, first class and business travel and a Mercedes Benz car.

The court heard he targeted Muslims, using the community's religious beliefs as a reason why he was offering such high investor returns.

He claimed he had 6,500 employees worldwide and an annual turnover ofUS650 million ($A950.5 million) as well as overseas interests in pharmaceuticals, oil, aviation, property, textiles, timber, coffee, sugar and perfume companies.

However, when a newspaper article began questioning his claims, Yusuf sent out a letter to investors offering to repay their funds.

Meanwhile, he closed down his offices, shipped all equipment overseas, soldhis trucks and emptied his business accounts before moving to Malaysia, leaving no assets or funds for investors to recover.

He later admitted to police he used investor funds for personal spending.

His lawyer Robert Richter QC said Yusuf voluntarily returned to Australia to "face the music" and was sorry for his actions.

Mr Richter said Yusuf was not very intelligent and did not initially intendthe scheme to be fraudulent.

He said Yusuf had been diagnosed with narcissistic personality disorder andlived in a fantasy world in which he desired to build an empire.

He acknowledged his client was likely to be jailed for some time.

The case will return to court at a date to be fixed.

AAP mipmuscocdh =0A