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Former Universal exec jailed for three years

By | Published on Wednesday 1 October 2014

Universal Music

Former Universal Music exec Duncan Schwier has been sentenced to three years in prison for defrauding the company of almost £650,000.

As previously reported, Schwier, who worked for the production music division of Universal’s publishing business, admitted to taking almost £650,000 from his employer over more than ten years. The fraud was only uncovered when Schwier was promoted last year and his successor, John Clifford, discovered a number of invoices that had been paid to two non-existent companies.

Last month, Schwier pleaded guilty to stealing £643,697.35 from Universal between 31 Dec 2001 and 31 Dec 2013. The court heard that the fraud was related to a diagnosis of Grave Disease, which can cause hyperactivity and affect judgement, and ended when he was diagnosed with what he believed was terminal cancer – though the judge ordered that exact details of his medical record be withheld.

Soon after the fraud was uncovered, Schwier repaid all of the money he had taken, in part by selling his house. It also emerged that none of the money taken had been spent on himself or his family – he maintaining a fairly modest lifestyle throughout – with £400,000 being spent on bonuses, meals, gifts and parties for staff, while another £100,000 was donated to charity.

According to the Daily Mail, Schwier’s lawyer, Lawrence Selby said: “It is a fairly depressing read that unfortunately nobody was able to effectively diagnose Mr Schwier. He reacted badly to medication, and things went worse from one thing to another. It was the sort of decade that you would not want to experience either personally or through those closest to you. He was working in a pressure cooker industry, unable to cry for help, unaware he was suffering in the way that he was, and these acts were a release for the stress and pressure”.

Judge Aidan Marron concurred, but said that the nature of the crime made a prison sentence unavoidable, concluding: “I accept that on the medical evidence put before me that throughout this period you suffered from serious medical disability that impacted on your judgement and ability. But at the end of the day, with such a serious breach of trust over more than a decade, I’m afraid that a custodial sentence is inevitable”.

It is not known if Schwier plans to appeal.