Property tycoon, 46, used money from £2.5M scam, court hears

Millionaire property tycoon, 46, whose wife left him for Spanish footballer Cesc Fabregas used money from £2.5m scam to pay for his divorce and Harrods shopping sprees, court hears

  • Elie Taktouk, 46, wanted by police after failing to turn up to sentencing hearing
  • Adrian Noel and his father had invested £2.5m in apartment in Knightsbridge 
  • But instead of developing home, Taktouk used money to fund luxurious lifestyle
  • Judge said he was ‘self-absorbed, self-pitying and selfish’ in business approach
  • Taktouk was handed term of seven years in jail at Southwark Crown Court today

A property tycoon whose wife left him for Spanish footballer Cesc Fabregas used money from a £2.5million real estate scam to help pay for his divorce.

Elie Taktouk, 46, is wanted by police after failing to turn up to his sentencing hearing at Southwark Crown Court today, where he was handed a term of seven years in jail.

He was last month found guilty of eight counts of fraud and two of using a false instrument following a private prosecution brought by real estate developer Adrian Noel and his father Frank Noel, who are from a wealthy Swiss family.

They invested a total of £2.5million in a Grade II listed apartment in Knightsbridge, west London, between 2014 and 2016.

The property, bought for £7.75million in February 2015, was to be redeveloped and sold on at a profit, but the project encountered a string of problems.

Instead of developing the property, project manager Taktouk used the Noels’ money to fund his luxurious lifestyle, splashing out on exclusive clubs, cars, hotels, shopping trips and restaurants. 

Judge Alexander Milne QC issued a bench warrant for Taktouk’s arrest before sentencing him to seven years imprisonment and disqualifying him from acting as a director for 10 years.

‘Mr Taktouk’s attitude to the truth was at times bewildering,’ said the judge, who referred to his ‘repeated lies and deception’. 

Elie Taktouk (pictured above), 46, is wanted by police after failing to turn up to his sentencing hearing at Southwark Crown Court today, where he was handed a term of seven years in jail

Court documents show he spent more than £20,000 on private school fees, bought a £28,000 Porsche, and rented a £21,000-a-month Kensington property.

Taktouk – who boasted during his three-week trial that his family was worth £150 million – also treated himself to shopping trips in Harrods, and bought Georgio Armani clothes and expensive furniture.

He even used more than £200,000 of the funds to pay legal fees for his high-profile divorce from Daniella Semaan, who he married in 1998, according to the documents.

She left him in 2011 for Arsenal and Chelsea star Fabregas, 34, and the couple went on to marry and have three children together.

Following his conviction in August, Taktouk was granted bail with a string of conditions, which included surrendering his Nigerian, Lebanese and British passports.

But he failed to attend his sentencing hearing, which was told he had not left the five-star Chelsea Harbour Hotel, where he has been living, an hour after the case was due to begin. 

Judge Milne said: ‘I would find it hard to rely upon almost anything that he says unless there was independent evidence of it.

‘He is in my opinion someone who sees the truth as being only whatever suits him in the moment.

‘In court it became clear that he is self-absorbed, self-pitying and selfish in his approach to business.

‘He had a privileged upbringing having been lavished with money from his father, which he was entitled to treat as his own.

Taktouk married Lebanese model Daniella Semann (pictured left) in 1998 but they split 13 years later when she left him for Spanish footballer Cesc Fabregas (right)

‘However, he extended this to treating the money of his business principals, the Noels, with the same casual sense of entitlement.’

Taktouk said during the trial he had suffered a mental breakdown as a result of his divorce.

He previously lost a legal battle against Ms Semaan over the 2013 sale of their £5.4million flat in Belgravia to Spanish company Zirrintza SL, in which Fabregas had an interest, and was last year jailed for contempt of court offences relating to the divorce proceedings.

Judge Milne said ‘the acrimony in the process emanated in no small part from himself’, adding: ‘Ultimately no amount of distress associated with the divorce can explain or excuse repeated lies and deception.’

Adrian Noel, then a student, said he and his father were introduced to Taktouk through a close friend and agreed to invest in the redevelopment, believing he and Taktouk’s father Youssef, who is in his 70s, would too.

They made an initial payment, which helped buy the apartment in February 2015, and 10 further investments at Taktouk’s request for work to be done, totalling £2,490,546.

Taktouk produced fake invoices to show construction work was being done, claiming the money would be used to install a kitchen, a high-end sound system and wood flooring.

‘We later discovered that instead of spending money on the development, Elie was funding his luxury lifestyle and telling us lies,’ said Mr Noel.

‘He even spent our money on legal fees for his divorce.

Judge Alexander Milne QC issued a bench warrant for Taktouk’s arrest before sentencing him to seven years imprisonment and disqualifying him from acting as a director for 10 years (file photo of Southwark Crown Court)

‘As a result of Elie Taktouk’s deception we lost all of our investment.

‘We felt totally betrayed from the beginning.’

Mr Noel said he first became suspicious when viewing the apartment in 2016, when it was still a shell, and then discovered the following year that the property was being sold by the National Bank of Abu Dhabi at auction following a mortgage default.

‘The day I discovered the sale I was understandably upset,’ he said.

‘It turned out that our money had been used by Elie to fund his lifestyle.

‘He paid for private school fees, bought himself a Porsche, rented a property in Kensington and went on shopping sprees in Harrods.’

His father Frank added: ‘I am very pleased with the result.

‘For me it was a point of principle and we are happy that justice has been served.’

Tim Maloney, defending, said in mitigation that the ‘original scheme was legitimately conceived’ and was not ‘dishonest from the outset’.

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