Baroness who transferred her savings to ‘Svengali’ lawyer could lose money after declaring bankruptcy

A “financially unsophisticated” aristocrat fighting to recoup her £ 2million in savings from a crooked ‘Svengali’ could go empty-handed even if she wins her case – after he declares bankruptcy.

Baroness Jacqueline Van Zuylen says she suffers sleepless nights after handing all her money over to “persuasive and impressive” lawyer Rodney Whiston-Dew to invest on her behalf.

In return, Baroness van Zuylen, whose former husband was the descendant of a mega-rich Dutch banking family, was promised a lifetime monthly income by the now-disgraced notary.

After losing faith in the deal, which was concluded in 2012, she says she asked for the refund.

But she claims Mr Whiston-Dew, 70, who was struck off as a lawyer after being jailed in 2017 for his role in a £ 65million tax scam, failed to return the money .

Baroness van Zuylen is now suing him, demanding repayment of £ 2million, plus damages.

Lawyers for the former semi-professional dressage rider, who says she “never worked”, told the High Court in a previous hearing that she had to “beg, steal and borrow” to get by without his savings.

Mr Whiston-Dew denies any wrongdoing, claiming he properly invested the Baroness’ money.

He also claimed he had tried to get her to ‘cut down on her extraordinary spending habits’ and ‘exorbitant personal expenses’ – which he said totaled more than £ 200,000 a year.

However, on the first day of the High Court trial between the two men, Judge Nicholas Thompsell learned that Mr Whiston-Dew would not appear in court and filed for bankruptcy.

Baroness Jacqueline Van Zuylen (pictured) says she suffers sleepless nights after handing over all her money to “persuasive and impressive” lawyer Rodney Whiston-Dew to invest on her behalf in 2012

She claims Mr Whiston-Dew (pictured), 70, who was struck off as a lawyer after being jailed in 2017 for his role in a £ 65million tax scam, failed to return the 'silver

She claims Mr Whiston-Dew (pictured), 70, who was struck off as a lawyer after being jailed in 2017 for his role in a £ 65million tax scam, failed to return the ‘silver

Baroness Van Zuylen was the third wife of Baron Thierry van Zuylen, a descendant of a Dutch noble family who made their fortune in banking.

She owned a series of top-level racehorses and was a leading figure in the French racing scene for over 50 years.

They separated before the Baron’s death in 2011 and after receiving a lucrative divorce settlement the Baroness settled into rural English high society in the quaint Cotswold village of Little Farringdon.

Meanwhile, her daughter Allegra – a former student of the private girls ‘school Cheltenham Ladies’ College – went to New York City to study art.

The baroness, who claims to be “financially unsophisticated”, says she was persuaded by Mr Whiston-Dew to transfer money, including her divorce pay, in the amount of £ 2,103,619, via lawyers at GBT Global Ltd, an offshore company of which he at the time the director.

She claims that she was promised a monthly income for life and signed a power of attorney in favor of Mr. Whiston-Dew, giving him the right to manage his financial transactions.

But in 2017, after losing faith in the arrangement, she says she asked for her money along with an explanation of what happened to her, but received neither.

That same year Mr Whiston-Dew was jailed for ten years for his role in a £ 65million tax evasion scam allegedly linked to an environmentally friendly reforestation project in Brazil.

He was removed from the register of notaries the following year.

The Baroness is now suing Mr Whiston-Dew and GBT Global Ltd, demanding repayment of her original sum in full, as well as compensation for potential lost investment gains.

Describing his case, his attorney Derrick Dale QC told the judge that Mr Whiston-Dew had told the Baroness his money would be invested in a long-term real estate investment in an apartment building in Norwich and land in the Essex.

“Based on very informal conversations, she is persuaded to transfer all of her savings,” he said.

Baroness Jacqueline Van Zuylen with her daughter Allegra pictured in October 2010

Baroness Jacqueline Van Zuylen with her daughter Allegra pictured in October 2010

“He immediately sets up a situation in which he is in control of everything.

“This is a completely fraudulent take, an investment scam. His trust is manipulated and exploited in the manner of the Svengali. ‘

The Baroness, testifying, told the judge that she did not understand the arrangement she was making with Mr. Whiston-Dew.

“My career has been a semi-professional dressage rider,” she told the judge. “I have not been a business woman.”

At a previous hearing in the battle, Mr Dale said Baroness Van Zuylen found herself in “desperate” circumstances without access to her money.

“She returned all of her money to Mr. Whiston-Dew and, since he went to jail, although the payments continued for a short time, she received no money, no money at all.” , did he declare.

“She had to beg, steal and borrow in order to survive on a daily basis. She cannot pay her rent on the property in which she lives.

And when the trial began last week, he said Mr Whiston-Dew had “not attended the trial” as scheduled and further said he had “filed for bankruptcy online.”

He would be “technically bankrupted” during the trial, the lawyer said.

Mr Whiston-Dew said earlier he would not attend the trial due to “depression and anxiety” issues.

The court heard he was struggling so much with the stress of trying to defend the Baroness’ claim from his prison cell that he had been put on antidepressants by the prison doctors.

In his written defense against action, he denied the Baroness’ version of events and said he and the company had never been involved in the scam.

She had lost money to bad investments and was spending too much on credit cards and overdrafts when they met, he claims.

He says he put what was left of his money in a trust fund on the Caribbean island of Nevis to preserve it.

Baroness Jacqueline Van Zuylen says she was made to invest £ 2million in her High Court summons

Baroness Jacqueline Van Zuylen says she was made to invest £ 2million in her High Court summons

He was trying to get her “to master her extraordinary spending habits, which at the time exceeded £ 200,000 a year,” he says.

“At this rate of trust fund erosion, capital would not last another decade,” he says.

Mr Whiston-Dew goes on to say that he was “called upon daily to meet the expenses incurred by the Baroness, including owners, travel agents, clothing suppliers, food suppliers, beverage suppliers, equestrian suppliers. , vehicle repairers, furniture suppliers (and) … horse acquisitions …

“The Baroness traveled abroad very frequently, including participating in horseback expeditions and an interior design project in very remote areas of India, East Africa, Italy, the Pays -Lower and in the United States, leaving me to deal with more and more calls from his bank. These have become daily occurrences.

He said the trust – known as the Azure Trust – was created under the “precise wishes and understanding” of the Baroness of the Isle of Nevis and that the UK courts were not competent to deal with a claim. case concerning funds held there.

The fund trustee is “under no obligation to return the trust fund to the Baroness and would in fact be a breach of trust to do so under the laws of Nevis,” he says.

The judge has now reserved judgment on the case, which will be delivered at a later date.

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