The pensioner is one of 12 ‘ordinary’ and ‘vulnerable’ Islanders to whom Christopher Paul Byrne is alleged to have given false and misleading statements which resulted in them losing a total of more than £2.7 million.
Mr Byrne (50), who ran the financial advisory company Lumiere Wealth, denies 21 counts of fraudulent inducement to invest money and failing to provide the Jersey Financial Services Commission with information following the issuing of a forthwith notice.
On the second day of a Royal Court trial, which is being heard by Jurats, the woman said that she had had a ‘pleasant relationship’ with Mr Byrne, that he was someone she had viewed as a ‘trusted friend’ and whom she had invited round for dinner.
The woman, who suffers from macular degeneration – a condition that causes severe, irreversible vision loss – claims Mr Byrne had her sign an unsecured personal loan agreement to him for £1 million when she believed she was authorising the money to be transferred into a bond that would provide her with better interest.
Describing the meeting at her home the woman, who requires a magnifying glass to read, said: ‘We talked about the day. We had a glass of wine and suddenly he got up and said: “I’m very late. Look at the time. I have to meet my wife and children. I want some signatures”.
‘And with that he put three white sheets of paper on the coffee table in my study and said: “I will show you where to sign”.
‘There were lines on them and the words date and signature. He said: “Sign here, here and here. He started talking so fast and slick that I just couldn’t keep up with it. I hardly knew what I was doing. He said he could fill the rest in when he got back.
‘The next think I know was there was this ridiculous paper that said I had given him a personal loan.’
She added that Mr Byrne had an ‘anxious look on his face’ when he asked for her signature.
When asked by Crown Advocate Simon Thomas, prosecuting, if she had any concerns about signing a blank piece of paper the woman replied: ‘I would do now but I didn’t then.
‘He was a trusted friend. It was stupid of me to sign a blank piece of paper. Very stupid.’
Advocate Thomas asked the woman what had happened to the £1 million.
‘It has been stolen,’ she replied. ‘Where it has gone to I have no idea.’
The woman also told the court how she and her now deceased husband invested £570,000 and £30,000 respectively into a bond which Mr Byrne had told them was a good investment.
She said she did not know what the fund was making or investing in but was under the impression that it was a low-risk investment. The money was invested into a high-risk fund called Providence with the core business of debt factoring in Brazil.
When asked by Advocate Thomas what she thought of Mr Byrne as a financial adviser, she replied: ‘I felt easy with him and comfortable with him. I said whatever you do you must take no risk.’
She added: ‘I said this regularly, every time without fail when I saw him. I would say: “Is it safe, Chris?” He would say: ‘I wouldn’t sell you anything that wasn’t safe”.’
Commissioner Sir John Saunders was sitting with Jurats Charles Blampied and Robert Christensen.
The trial, which is expected to last six weeks, continues.