The five people on trial deny two counts of conspiracy to defraud and various charges of money laundering. The man behind the scam, Toni Muldoon, ran a string of bogus companies from Spain and has already pleaded guilty to two charges of conspiracy to defraud.
Prosecutor Nic Lobbenberg said Muldoon was "at the helm of the conspiracy" and received huge amounts which he spent on expensive luxury villas and boats. A series of escort agency websites were set up using names including Beautiful Adults, European Escorts and AdoraBelles, the court heard.
People were told they had a date and were then asked to pay the upfront fees. The dates were cancelled and they did not get the money back.
It was a complete scam. The jury heard that the "conspirators" also ran a debt scam in which they cold-called people from Spain.
They were persuaded to put more money on their credit cards to get rid of debt. Colin Samuels, 61, from Redgrave, Suffolk, is alleged to be the "front man" who allowed his escort to be used to launder money. He is said to have helped recruit directors to scam companies and provided the telephone lines to the Spanish call centre.
He is alleged to have allowed his company escortFirst Direct Recovery Ltd, to be used to scam criminal proceeds of the fraud. He chose the names for the websites and booked adverts in papers such as the Daily Star, the court heard. Geraldine French, 60, who lived in Spain and also has links in Suffolk, was, the prosecution said, the money person who acted as the administrator and was "at the forefront of the deception".
Opening the prosecution case, the jury heard that the defendants, who deny a total of 13 charges between them, "believed they were engaged in legitimate, honest business". HM Courts Service.
The jury heard millions of pounds were transferred from the UK to bank s in Spain. Fees were then transferred through a network of false companies in the UK. Mr Lobbenberg told the jury the scam was run from call centres in Spain and Turkey.
The case is expected to last eight weeks. Related Internet Links.