Tenbury man denies being part of multi-million pound plan to defraud music industry

A TENBURY Wells businessman has told a jury he was not part of a multi-million conspiracy to defraud the music industry by selling CDs and DVDs that should have been destroyed.

Michael Clent, 52, is alleged to have played a major role in the fraud by distributing thousands of discs through a network of companies.

He has claimed that he understood the discs were the property of business associates in Shropshire.

Pallet loads of unwanted discs were sent to Newport Plastics Recycling Ltd by music companies to be destroyed between 2001 and 2006, but were sold on.

Clent, of The Oaklands, Tenbury Wells, is one of four men on trial at Wolverhampton Crown Court accused of selling an estimated £8 million worth of CDs and DVDs over a six year period.

Leading music producers believed the material from the discs was to be recycled to make plastic garden furniture.

Instead it is alleged an estimated £8 million was paid for the CDs and DVDs by a number of legitimate "grey market" companies across the country.

Clent, 38-year-old Shaun Norton, of Newport, Shropshire, Cary Evans, 49, of Minsterley, Shrewsbury, and Stephen Payne, 55, of Tetbury, Gloucestershire, all deny conspiring together, and with Harold James Pearce and William Cartwright, to defraud music industry companies between January, 2001 and December, 2006.

Giving evidence Clent told the jury that Pearce had "invested" money on his behalf which he believed was his legitimate commission for the sales.

Questioned by Nr Richard Sutton, prosecuting, he said he was not aware of having up to £800,000 in cash and assets – details revealed on a memory stick recovered by police.

He claimed they were Pearce's figures and were "just on paper" and there was nothing to say he was receive any of the money.

The court has heard it involved over £220,000 in cash and shares in a company that owned property abroad.

Clent admitted that he had initially lied during police interviews in an effort to protect Pearce and Cartwright, who ran the Newport recycling business. The jury has been told that 60-year-old Pearce was not in the dock and that Cartwright had died in 2007 during the police inquiry.

Operation Vine was launched by West Mercia police after a shipment of discs was recovered in Essex almost six years ago.

The trial continues.

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