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Former PC tycoon faces jail over fraud

The Forsyth saga

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Former PC tycoon Charles Forsyth, who fled the UK in 2002 during a Serious Fraud Office investigation into the collapse of his company, Personal Computer Science (PCS), was warned yesterday to prepare for prison, after he pleaded guilty to fraudulent trading charges.

Newcastle Crown Court heard Wednesday that Forsyth, 45, resorted to increasingly dishonest measures to keep his ailing business alive before PCS crashed with debts of £8m in July 1999 and the loss of 150 jobs. Among other misdemeanours, North Yorkshire-based PCS sold faulty computers built from second hand parts onto high street retailers such as Tesco and Argos. Forsyth also lied to secure a £750,000 overdraft facility from his bank and secure a $1.5m credit note as PCS ran into deep financial difficulties.

In November 2001, multiple complaints prompted the Serious Fraud Squad to launch an investigation into PCS, which in its heydey, was one of the UK's biggest independent PC builders. As investigators zeroed in on Forsyth he fled the UK, passing through Bulgaria and Russia before settling in Australia to live with his parents. He was arrested in Australia in 2003 and, following a protracted legal battle, extradited to the UK.

In court Wednesday, prosecutors said Forsyth was a "dictatorial boss" prepared to resort to illegal tactics to shift PCs before his firm went into "complete meltdown", the Daily Telegraph reports.

Gary Burrell QC, prosecuting, said: "This was not just a company selling an inferior product or a company selling computers which were not worth the money. Charles Forsyth was fraudulently trading in such a way and at such a level so that he knowingly carried on this business with an intent to defraud the creditors of that business and their customers by selling inferior computer products."

Forsyth pleaded guilty to two charges of fraudulent trading and to "obtaining pecuniary advantage by deception" as well as a string of less serious, related offences. Judge Guy Whitburn told Forsyth that a period on remand in Australia was insufficient punishment for his crimes and to expect a further stretch at Her Majesty's pleasure.

Forsyth, a Scots aristocrat and son of a clan chieftain, has had a colourful career in the PC industry, being involved in several high-profile company failures including Multiplex, NTS and Microworld. For a time he also ran a classic car dealership in his native Edinburgh.

Sentencing before Judge Guy Whitburn is due today.®

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