Alistair Greig: The inside story on North-east financial adviser, who stole £13 million from hundreds of his own clients.
Section One: Alistair Greig’s Scam
Alistair Greig had enjoyed a long and successful career in the finance sector, earning the trust of thousands of clients.
But somewhere along the line, the 66-year-old turned from respectable financial adviser to merciless crook, fleecing devastated families out of their life savings.
Greig was jailed for 14 years in April this year after being found guilty of conning more than 180 people out of more than £13 million.
While New York had the famous Wolf of Wall Street, the North-east had its very own Crook of Cairnbulg, operating from the remote Buchan village where he lived until his downfall.
Greig committed the fraud in the 13 years leading up to 2014, when police and a financial watchdog swooped on the office of his firm, Midas Financial Solutions (Scotland), on Little Belmont Street, Aberdeen.
So how did Alistair Greig scam his victims?
It was a classic Ponzi scheme.
Named after the 1920s US businessman Charles Ponzi, who carried out this kind of con, the mastermind takes other people’s money and pledges to pay them a generous return in time.
Investors withdrawing their money are actually paid with funds from newer investors, and so on. Problems start when you don’t have enough new money coming in at the top of the funnel to pay those at the bottom of the funnel.
In this case, many investors – made up of North-east businessmen, retired couples, and young folk – were even told their original investment had grown. So they simply reinvested more money, all the time believing it was safely tucked away, gathering interest.
The only problem is, it wasn’t.
Before turning to fraud, Alistair Greig’s career in the finance sector brought such success his big spending didn’t arouse suspicion to anyone around him.
And those close to Greig believe it was probably this rubbing of shoulders with big spenders that led to him pursuing a life of crime.
One source, who asked not to be named, told us of the time Greig attended a work conference in Aberdeen and met a pal at an upmarket bar afterwards to wind down.
The pal greeted Greig with dozens of bottles of Moet Champagne that would add to an eye-watering bar bill.
That friend was none other than Edwin McLaren, now aged 54, of Renfrewshire, who was jailed for 11 years in May 2017 after being convicted of a £1.6m mortgage fraud.
The trial lasted for 320 days – the longest in UK legal history. McLaren would persuade innocent people to sign over their houses to him in a complex scam.
According to court papers published after the sentencing at the High Court in Glasgow, the largest sum obtained in this way from a single transaction was £187,846 – from Stewart and Barbara Mitchell, of Peterhead.
One source told us: “Greig and McLaren had worked together many years ago, though McLaren wasn’t involved in any of Greig’s scams, and vice versa.”
Some believe Alistair Greig grew envious of the lavish spending of those around him, and so went down a criminal path to show he could keep up with the Joneses. One of those close to him told us they were baffled when the police revealed the extent of Greig’s offending, because Greig had once reacted with rage when he discovered another former colleague had committed fraud.
That associate compared Greig’s transformation from law-abiding businessman to master criminal with the actions of Walter White, the science teacher turned drug dealer in hit-US crime series Breaking Bad.
Another source told us Greig was a big fan of gangster movies, particularly The Godfather.
According to a senior source close to this investigation, Greig got the idea for his fraud from a genuine Royal Bank of Scotland scheme.
The source said: “RBS offers a product called a treasury bond which allows customers to put money in for three to nine months at a high rate of interest.
“The minimum RBS was accepting for this scheme was £1m. That was out of Greig’s reach, but it’s where he got the idea from.”
In 2006, Greig left Park Row Associates and founded Midas Financial Solutions (Scotland) Ltd, operating out of an office on Little Belmont Street, right in the heart of Aberdeen just off Union Street.
Much of what went on there was genuine business and Greig exploited that façade of legitimacy for his own ends.
The senior source said: “Midas offered mortgages, pensions and other products. The scam was a sideline that seemed to start up. If people had sold a house and had some equity then it would be casually mentioned by their financial adviser ‘oh well, Alistair Greig has got this fund. If you’re just going to sit on your funds for a few months, then why don’t you put it in that scheme?’”
Midas staff would tell clients the scheme was for “highly valued” Alistair Greig customers, who then felt special – part of an exclusive club.
The source said: “The money was given to Midas by the victims due to the relationships they had built up with their financial advisers.
“It went into a separate Midas account – not the main one. Greig controlled that separate account.”
He pitched the interest rate at somewhere between plausible and too good to be true.”
Clients were told they could get up to 12% interest – a high amount at any time, especially when you realise that during the period most of Greig’s crime was carried out the national interest rate was just 0.5%.
Yet here was Greig, an experienced financial adviser, offering rates of up to 24 times that much. One of those with intimate knowledge of the fraudster’s acts, who asked not to be named, claimed one victim was offered a 60% interest rate.
The source added: “What Greig basically did was name whatever figure he thought would work.”
Another insider – a senior figure close to the investigation – said: “He pitched the interest rate at somewhere between plausible and too good to be true.”
When victims decided to invest, Greig asked them to write cheques to companies such as Midas Aberdeen or Midas Financial – names similar enough to Midas’s actual name to not arouse suspicion, but different enough for the funds to be diverted into Greig’s personal slush fund.
Some investors made a profit – and that was key to the scam’s success.
Alistair Geig’s house of cards
Police Scotland’s DCI Iain McPhail, the senior investigator on the case, said: “Numerous people have had returns from the scheme and walked away – but those returns are the life savings of someone else.
“It also adds the little bit of element of truth to the scheme by Greig – that they are getting returns, so they are much more likely to invest more money.”
Another senior source, who was close to the investigation, said 40 people who invested did not come forward to give a statement because they got their money back – along with their interest – paid out from someone else’s investment.
The source added: “You can see that might not sit comfortably with them wanting to give a statement. You can see how that might weigh on someone’s conscience.”
Alistair Greig utilised those early “success stories” to rope in victims. People would wax lyrical about the return they got to family and friends, who in turn contacted Midas and invested their money.
Sometimes, Greig’s unknowing staff pitched the scheme at networking events, gaining new investors as they went. Graham Hudson was a member of a networking group called BNI, where Midas financial adviser Allan Milne, now aged 65, attended to give speeches to bankers, managing directors and tradespeople.
‘Some people have died because of this’
Mr Hudson became a victim himself. He told us: “BNI has four or five chapters in the Aberdeen area. It allows people attending to assist each other.
“Mr Milne would be there every week. He would talk about other things but, once every two or three months, he’d say ‘we have this great facility with RBS, so if you have in excess of £20,000 to put in, the rates of return are better than other investments available’.
“Everyone who I know who invested did so after developing a trust with the Midas advisers. It took me four years of doing little bits and pieces of business with Mr Milne before I trusted him with a large amount and everyone else was the same.
“That’s the thing that annoys the victims the most – that they trusted Midas staff. Some people have died because of this.”
Police said Alistair Greig was the only guilty party. The scam went on for the best part of 14 years.
Greig was finally snared in 2014, but our investigation has revealed a watchdog missed three chances to stop him earlier.
A senior source close to the investigation told us: “The tales of bounced cheques and broken promises tended to be towards the end of the scheme in 2014 when members of Midas staff were being fobbed off by Greig.
“In these cases, it is like a house of cards or a domino effect.”
And it inevitably fell to the ground.
Section Two: Alistair Greig’s Lifestyle
Before that house of cards came crashing down, life was good for Alistair Greig. Very good, indeed.
As he counts down the 5,110 days of his sentence, the 66-year-old will be able to spend around £15.50 a week behind bars, but things were not always so bleak.
Our investigation, which involved working with police, prosecutors and those close to Greig, told us he would socialise with people who lived a lavish lifestyle. Those close to Greig and to the investigation told us he had a penchant for sport, fast cars – and the summer high life.
For it was during those warmer months where Greig’s spending would come into its own.
When police searched Greig’s properties, they found a receipt for services purchased from £120,000 on Dorset-based events company Corinthian Sports.
On the firm’s polished and professional looking website, the business describes itself as providing “the highest quality, tailored sports and corporate hospitality packages”.
The homepage displays a sleek marketing video showing glamorous women, sharply dressed men – all complete with smiles, while sipping Bollinger Champagne as they are treated to a private performance from a DJ.
These revellers are shown scoffing snacks brought to them by waiters on board the 35m-long DXB luxury yacht in Monte Carlo. Accompanied by his wife Judi and other friends, family and work colleagues and associates, Greig would attend some of the biggest sporting fixtures of the high season.
One source close to the investigation has confirmed that Judi, 65, knew nothing of the fraud until police swooped on her then husband.
The mum of two left him immediately and ended up homeless, and now works behind the till at a convenience store in Aberdeenshire.
But before the net closed in on Greig, his social group attended some of the biggest sporting fixtures in Europe, including Royal Ascot – famous for its association with the Queen – and the highest calibre of racing, including the prestigious Gold Cup.
Greig’s whistlestop tour of sporting highlights also included the British Grand Prix held at Silverstone – a centrepiece of the annual Formula One racing calendar. He also attended the prestigious Wimbledon tennis championships.
The source said: “He used a company, Corinthian Sports, on a variety of occasions for a number of guests for Ascot races and Silverstone with a total cost of £120,000.”
There were also holidays in Italy, Singapore and other far-flung destinations. On face value, the expense wasn’t out of keeping with his perceived professional standing, but some did query how he could afford such grandeur.
One source close to Alistair Greig told us he would pay for people to go on holidays with him and tell those who queried the cost the group was splitting it, knowing that was a lie.
And it was luxury all the way, as Greig splashed the cash on VIP boxes and the best viewing points for many events.
The source added: “A lot of spending went on classic cars, and the businesses that he and Judi ran.
“There were corporate hospitality trips to Manchester United. He took hospitality boxes at Aberdeen Football Club and at other games around Scotland.”
The couple would spend many weekends driving down the M6 to enjoy lunch at an eatery opposite Old Trafford football ground before watching Manchester United play from an executive lounge, enjoying another meal and having a night in a hotel, returning home the following day.
Without a doubt, he would have had a clear understanding in his own mind he is using other people’s hard-earned money to live the lavish lifestyle, jet-setting everywhere and buying big fancy cars.”
Detective Constable Stuart Murray
Investigators believe Greig used the flamboyant lifestyle as a public show for clients.
The source said: “His attitude was ‘I’m a successful businessman, look at me – you can have faith your money is being well looked-after because it’s worked out well for me.’”
Further purchases were to follow. On one occasion, he made a decision to spend £200,000 within 20 seconds. Greig was in the Cornish town of Bude staying with people he knew when he noticed a house for sale across the road. He decided right there and then to buy it, and stayed there only a handful of times before selling it on.
Then in 2013, he set up his own classic cars company from his new home in Boston, Lincolnshire. Investigators believe he injected some of his victim’s cash into that firm, AJZ Classic Cars.
Alistair Greig: ‘He knew he’d be caught’
He bought a Jaguar, a high-end Bentley and Range Rover. No expense was spared. Greig was also a collector of rare football matchday programmes. Even when the net was closing in, Greig took loved ones on a holiday to Rome.
One source close to the investigation said: “Looking back on the timeline, and all the bank statements from that time, that holiday came when the game was up and he knew he’d be caught.
“Perhaps it was one final time to spend time with his wife and the children before it all ended.
“His family had no idea what he was up to and thought it was just a nice getaway.”
While running his fraudulent empire, Greig didn’t hide in the shadows and featured in a newspaper article heaping praise on RBS in 2003.
Seventeen years on, those comments look bitterly ironic as we now know Greig was abusing RBS’s name so he could thrive off his victims’ woe.
Detective Constable Stuart Murray, who was also involved in the investigation, said Greig was almost living a double life, fronting a wholesome public image while wrecking the lives of hardworking North-east residents.
DC Murray added: “Without a doubt, he would have had a clear understanding in his own mind he is using other people’s hard-earned money to live the lavish lifestyle, jet-setting everywhere and buying big fancy cars.
“That was the sole purpose of this scheme for him – and he would have been well aware of that.
“It became apparent that Greig was using the money from the Ponzi scheme to progress his businesses, renting out flats and various things.
“He had a number of property portfolios across Aberdeen that he was using the money for.”
DC Murray’s boss DCI McPhail said: “He could never account for this spending and the logical conclusion is that it was funded by the misery of his victims.”
And there were many of them.