Robert Aspinall, 38, was sentenced to three-and-a-half years in prison Monday after pleading guilty to stealing nearly US$500,000 from two investment funds he managed during their liquidation in 2012 and 2013.
Aspinall, once a rising star at Deloitte – a big four accounting firm – was told Monday by Grand Court Judge Timothy Owen that he would never work in the Cayman Islands finance industry again.
“I am satisfied that the motive for your offending is easy to describe … sheer avarice,” Justice Owen said before pronouncing Aspinall’s sentence. “Your actions were sophisticated. They were plainly not dreamed up on the spur of the moment.
“You sought to conceal your criminal conduct and but for the reversal of the settlement [against the funds’ investors in the U.S.] to the tune of US$21.5 million, it is all but certain you would have got away with it.”
Aspinall, who worked for Deloitte at the time, was appointed in 2012 as one of two joint voluntary liquidators to oversee the dissolution of two connected investment funds registered in the Cayman Islands. Insider trading allegations were made against the funds’ U.S.-based investment manager, and the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission initially won a US$21.5 million judgment against the funds’ manager.
The case was overturned a few years later, and the US$21.5 million settlement was reversed. A U.S. district court judge ordered the Securities and Exchange Commission to return the money to creditors and investors in the funds, including the two Cayman registered funds, Level Global Overseas Master Fund Ltd. and Level Radar Master Fund Ltd.
The Deloitte accounting firm, initially appointed to manage the funds’ liquidation, undertook the task in January to assist former investors in finding and collecting their money. It was during this review that the accounting firm uncovered “a number of discrepancies” – including some cash Aspinall, as the joint voluntary liquidator – had transferred to a Cayman bank account held for a company in the British Virgin Islands he controlled.
The Deloitte review, Crown Counsel Toyin Salako said Friday, “ultimately led to the discovery of Aspinall’s criminality” which resulted in the theft of US$445,000 from the Level Global Overseas Master Fund Ltd. funds Aspinall was managing.
In addition to the theft from the Level fund, another US$50,314.20 from a separate investment fund – called Aslan Capital Master Fund – was admitted by Aspinall. Judge Owen acknowledged that neither Deloitte nor Crown prosecutors were aware of this theft before Aspinall informed them about it.
Judge Owen said Aspinall’s honesty and forthrightness in admitting his crimes and cooperating with police was “exceptional.” The judge said the U.K. national used his time on police bail to sell off assets in order to return more than US$600,000 to Deloitte.
Those funds included the amount Aspinall took from the funds over which he was appointed as liquidator, as well as interest on that amount and some contribution to the accounting firm’s legal fees related to his case.
Judge Owen said Aspinall’s thefts were “wholly out of character.”
“You were regarded as a valued member of the Cayman community,” the judge said, noting that Aspinall had stayed on island after Hurricane Ivan in 2004 and helped in the rebuilding.
He will now have to serve at least 60 percent of his sentence (25 months) in prison, away from his wife and two young daughters, under the new Conditional Release Law.
“There is no sentence this court [can pronounce] that will be worse than the shame, sorrow and disgust you will always feel about your actions,” Justice Owen said. “This is entirely your fault. You will never be able to return to work in the financial services industry again.”
The Judge sentenced Aspinall according to “class 1” (most serious offense) theft guidelines. He could have received up to 10 years in prison. Judge Owen initially set the sentence at five-and-a-half years, but discounted the sentence to three-and-a-half years due to Aspinall’s cooperation.
Three-and-a-half years was the minimum sentence Aspinall could have received under the court sentencing guidelines for a “class 1” theft.