Fraudster film producer, 56, who stole more than £159,000 from her victims is ...

Fraudster film producer, 56, who stole more than £159,000 from her victims is ...
Fraudster film producer, 56, who stole more than £159,000 from her victims is ...

An international film fraudster who scammed her victims out of £159,000 by claiming she had links to Denzel Washington, the Dalai Lama and Princess Anne has been jailed for three years. 

Lois Bhagwan, 56, convinced unwitting victims to invest in a dodgy humanitarian initiative called the Lionheart Project which she launched in 1992. 

She would then take out the invested money in cash and spend it on a luxurious lifestyle travelling the world meeting diplomats.  

Bhagwan hired a swanky Range Rover, a cottage in the Cotswolds in Milton-under-Wychwood, Oxfordshire, and splashing out on trips around the world staying at exclusive hotels.

She pretended that she was friends with international sports stars, presidents and claimed she had fired a movie star. 

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Fijian-born film producer Bhagwan's Lionheart Project was touted as a way of connecting people around the world to solve issues facing communities across the globe.

Lois Bhagwan (pictured), 56, convinced unwitting victims to invest in a dodgy humanitarian initiative called the Lionheart Project which she launched in 1992

Lois Bhagwan (pictured), 56, convinced unwitting victims to invest in a dodgy humanitarian initiative called the Lionheart Project which she launched in 1992

The scheme, which was launched at an event in the St Regis Hotel, Washington DC, in 2001 attended by former Amnesty International director Jack Healey, had its origins in the early 1990s.

The defendant hoped to create a film and associated TV series focusing on different communities around the world with people she branded 'Lionhearts'.

Over time the ambition grew, with a worldwide network of 'Lionhearts' and plans for a global launch of the film together with interactive 'experiences' capable of connecting people virtually around the world.

Bhagwan set her sights high. In the early 1990s, she approached former international cricketer Imran Khan, now prime minister of Pakistan, who was then raising money for a hospital in Lahore. 

Bhagwan claimed to have the contact details of the Dalai Lama (pictured)

Bhagwan claimed to have the contact details of the Dalai Lama (pictured) 

She also falsely used Hillary Clinton's name when trying to deceive her victims

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She also falsely used Hillary Clinton's name when trying to deceive her victims

She claimed to be funding the Lionheart Project out of her own royalty income from films she'd produced and, later, through a multi-million pound high-interest fund.

Her victims - some of whom later set up a 'defamatory' website naming Ms Bhagwan and exposing the fraud - were told that their money would be placed with this fund, which during her trial she said had been registered in South Korea.

In total, her victims lost almost £160,000 and only about £10,000 has ever been returned.

They included the ex-captain of the Fijian national rugby team, who lost almost £2,000 to the fraud.

Former Saracens star Mosese Raulini, 46, told the jury he was looking for investments as he neared retirement. 

She falsely claimed to have links to the likes of Princess Anne and several other celebrities

She falsely claimed to have links to the likes of Princess Anne and several other celebrities

Victim Wanda Arnold, who was persuaded into handing over £25,000 for two shares in the Lionheart Project plus a further £5,000 for a 'short-term' loan, described being in awe of the woman.

'I thought she was a very nice lady, very enthusiastic. You got swept along with her. She was vivacious, she was very well connected and there were times I felt in awe of her,' the Worcestershire woman told jurors.

'She said she knew people like Condoleeza Rice, who was the [US] Secretary of State at the time, the High Commissioner of here, the High Commissioner of there.' 

The con artist spoke

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