Lawyer conned millions out of bank

A high-flying City lawyer who conned millions from her bank bosses to help a friend’s ailing airline was jailed for five years yesterday.

Kate Johns, 39, deputy head of Tokyo Mitsubishi’s legal department, repeatedly cajoled colleagues into ignoring procedure and approving letters of credit totalling more than £6 million.

Sentencing her at London’s Southwark Crown Court, Judge John Price said: “The essence of the fraud was that you used your position to persuade, cajole and, I’m afraid, bully those lower down the chain of command to authorise the loan.”

The massive transfers ended up in the coffers of struggling Indonesian carrier Air Efata, which boasted just three planes, the court heard.

In return, the £150,000-a-year lawyer received pay-offs totalling £1.95 million, more than £1.1 million of which was promptly used to clear the mortgage on her luxury townhouse.

She also splashed out £40,000 of her “ill-gotten gains” on a pair of earrings to go with the £35,000 ring grateful airline chief Frank Taira-Supit had bought her.

Investigators also found she had received another £1.05 million from him before the scam. She claimed it was for legal advice, but it helped provide her with a lifestyle of shopping trips, personal grooming and breast surgery.

But her massive betrayal of trust failed to rescue the Harvard law graduate’s airline and it was grounded.

The devastated 58-year-old former lawyer later hanged himself.

Married Johns, of Gloucester Avenue, Camden Town, north London, claimed that, far from being a criminal, she had simply been doing the bidding of one of her bosses to protect the bank’s interests.

But the jury took less than three hours to unanimously decide she was lying and convict her of 12 offences committed between May 11 and October 25, 2006.

Five offences concerned using letters of credit to obtain money transfers by deception totalling £6.67m by deception, while the remainder involved the acquisition of £588,373 criminal property.

Johns, who sat for most of the hour-long sentencing with her eyes closed, collapsed in the dock as she was led from the court.

Dock officers, who passed several messages between Johns and her defence team during the hearing, helped her to her feet.

The judge told the court a “brilliant young woman” had “seen her career destroyed”.

He said Johns held a “very important and influential position” at the bank and used that position to “persuade, cajole and, I’m afraid, bully” others more junior than herself.

“You covered up by telling people the transaction was confidential,” the judge said.

He said the loss of $10 million was “not a lot to a bank of that size, but still a considerable amount” and it had damaged public confidence in the bank “to a degree”.

He added: “I don’t think that when this scam was hatched by you and Mr Supit, first of all you didn’t intend to have the money for yourself.

“You took wholly unjustified risks but honestly believed (in him).

“I’m sure you didn’t obtain this loan for your own selfish devices.

“But thereafter you continued recklessly in getting more and more money out of the bank.”


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