A BROMSGROVE accountant who defrauded BMW of almost £6million and bought cars, jewellery and a diving school in Mauritius committed ‘a grotesque breach of trust’, a judge said.
Johannes Franken, of Fockbury Road, Dodford, was jailed for five years and four months yesterday (Tuesday) after he admitted money laundering and five counts of fraud between September 2011 and December last year.
The 50-year-old diverted millions of pounds into his own bank account while working at the BMW Mini plant in Cowley by making up 59 fake payments to suppliers.
In a statement BMW said in the wake of the fraud, new procedures had been introduced to make sure the same thing could never happen again.
Franken had tears in his eyes as Judge Ian Pringle told him he was guilty of ‘dishonesty on a huge scale’ at Oxford Crown Court.
Prosecutor Naomi Perry said police investigations revealed the father-of-three spent hundreds of thousands of pounds on an ‘extravagant’ lifestyle.
This included buying three ‘top of the range’ BMW cars, two with personalised number plates, a BMW motorbike, £20,000 worth of jewellery, and even a diving school during a trip to Mauritius, she said.
Miss Perry added more than £3million remained unaccounted for and police confiscation proceedings were now under way in a bid to recover it.
Investigating officer Det Sgt Duncan Wynn said he was satisfied by the sentence, adding it reflected the fact that ‘white collar fraud is not a victimless crime’.
He said: “I hope this sentence will act as a deterrent and show that crime does not pay.
“Franken systematically abused his position of trust with his employer to steal large sums of money, which he spent on a lavish lifestyle.
“So far assets and monies totalling £2.5million have been located and restrained under the Proceeds of Crime Act.
“We are currently actively pursuing the outstanding amounts.”
Miss Perry told Judge Pringle that Franken started working for BMW as an accountant in 2009, but in 2011 embarked on a ‘systemic fraud’ that lasted three and a half years.
She said while working as a team leader he made false entries in the Cowley plant’s computer system showing payments to supplier Total Security Protection, while actually entering his own bank details.
Miss Perry said he took gradually increasing sums of money, starting at about £30,000 and finally exceeding £278,000 by the time the fraud was uncovered.
She said Franken was caught after auditor KPMG carried out a random check with the supplier and discovered it had not worked with BMW since 2010.
The barrister added that the defendant told police he started taking money to repay a previous debt he had incurred after committing fraud in the Netherlands.
Gareth James, defending, said his client had also been used to an expensive lifestyle when he earned as much as 300,000euros a year while working in Europe, but could not sustain it on his BMW salary.
He said: “There has been a certain amount of spending on a lifestyle that was not sustainable on his legitimate salary.
“Mr Franken is also a man who feels the need to be loved and somehow feels that buying affection works.”
Passing sentence Judge Pringle told Franken: “For the people who trusted you as their accountant this is a grotesque breach of trust.”
BMW spokeswoman Angela Stangroom said the company was ‘continuing to work with the authorities to recover assets where possible’.
She added: “The fraudulent activity was discovered by the company’s financial control mechanisms.
“These have been reviewed and new procedures implemented to ensure that the company cannot be defrauded in a similar way in the future.”