CALGARY - One of two men on trial for an alleged Ponzi scheme that police say bilked thousands of investors out of up to $400 million delivered his own closing argument Tuesday, telling the jury his best weapon against the Crown's case is the truth.
Gary Sorenson said he was afraid when the Crown laid out its case at the beginning of the trial back in September.
"I must admit, I was filled with fear and concern that he could actually create something that was unreal into a story which would be believable," said Sorenson, who dismissed his lawyer during the five-month trial.
"The Crown is a formidable adversary. They have the ability to call on the full resources of the government, to prepare research and deliver their case. But I realized that I also had something even more formidable — and that was the resource and the truth."
Sorenson, 71, and co-accused Milowe Brost, 61, have pleaded not guilty to two charges each of fraud and theft. Brost faces an additional charge of money laundering, to which he also pleaded not guilty.
The two men were arrested in 2009 for what police have called "the largest Ponzi-type scheme" in Canadian history. Ponzi schemes involve funds from new investors being used to pay old ones.
Police have said investors around the world lost between $100 million and $400 million. The Crown alleges many lost their life savings, retirement plans, even equity in their homes.
One set of alleged fraud and theft offences took place between 1999 and 2008 and involved companies named Syndicated Gold Depository SA, Base Metals Corporation LLC, Bahama Resource Alliance Ltd. and Merendon Mining Corporation Ltd.
Another set of charges alleges wrongdoing took place between 2004 and 2005 with a company called Strategic Metals Corp. Brost's money-laundering charge is also connected to those alleged offences.
The Crown argued at trial that the victims of the scheme were promised "astounding" returns with "little or no risk."
For instance, the Crown said, purported Merendon prospects in Honduras, Venezuela, Ecuador and Yukon "produced gold only erratically and in very small amounts" and other holdings in Peru and British Columbia never reached the production stage.
But Sorenson said there is reasonable doubt.
"In presenting its opening argument, the Crown further elaborates the charges by saying that I personally obtained millions of dollars from ordinary people by lying to them directly and indirectly. I treated the money, allegedly obtained, as my own," Sorenson told the jury.
"I paid no regard to the promises that were made to investors, that I lived like royalty and took steps along the way to hide any wrongdoings.
"I believe the evidence supports that these allegations are beyond reasonable doubt," he added.
Sorenson defended some of his business decisions that ventured outside of buying gold, including building a fishing resort, which he called a wise investment because bass fishing was going to be an "absolutely phenomenal" business.
"I'm responsible for building the resort," he said. "I made a management decision."
Sorenson finished by urging jurors to come to the right decision, saying his life was in their hands.
"I'm trusting you and, with my respect, humbly ask you to return a verdict of not guilty."
Brost's lawyer is scheduled to give his closing remarks Wednesday.
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