A financial adviser has denied claims that he orchestrated a £600,000 scam to feed his gambling debts.
Prosecutors claim Alok Dhanda convinced investors to hand over cash for a property venture in Bangalore, India.
But forensic accountants from Northumbria Police claim he was using the money to pay off debts of more than £1m, magistrates heard.
He was the subject of a huge investigation in which police raided his business, Dhanda Financial, on Dean Street, Newcastle, and his Gosforth home after banks alerted the economic crime unit about cash transactions in his accounts.
In total he entered not guilty pleas to 13 charges of fraud relating to a so-called Ponzi scheme, in which a person pays interest to investors by borrowing from new clients, prosecutor Keith Laidlaw claimed.
During a hearing at North Tyneside Magistrates’ Court yesterday Dhanda’s solicitor, Charlton James Carr, said cash totalling £600,000 was given to his client in personal loans for his business.
He said it was not a criminal enterprise and should have been pursued through the civil courts.
Mr Carr said: “He appears to have written for a lot of financial papers and magazines and he’s been on television. He’s a man who’s held in high esteem and has an ability to make other people money.”
He added: “The Crown Prosecution Service appears to have criminalised this matter when it should be going through the county court.”
Dhanda, of Grove Park Square, Gosforth, Newcastle, spoke only to confirm his name and deny the charges.
Presiding magistrate Yvonne Steane remanded the 53-year-old in custody until his next appearance at Newcastle Crown Court on April 30.
Father-of-two Dhanda was named independent financial adviser of the year in 2006 and was runner-up for the two subsequent years. On finance websites, Dhanda is described having more than “25 years of experience in helping people to regain control of their finances”.
One site states: “He is a ‘Top of the Table’ member of the million-dollar round table, which lists him in the top 0.1% of the world’s financial advisers. The firm has been awarded numerous accolades and provides a welcoming, understanding service.
“The team holds ongoing reviews with clients to ensure that the most relevant solutions are found for their changing financial requirements.”
Dhanda Financial advise clients on financial issues such as pensions, insurance and mortgages.
In October Dhanda, who has featured regularly in The Journal as an adviser, announced he was transferring to the Carlisle-based Truly Independent company on a self-employed basis. He said the change would help to remove the “hassle and stress” of running his own business.