A businessman who defrauded Barclays Bank out of almost £9 million has been jailed.

Nicholas Marcou, 49, of Friern Watch Avenue, North Finchley, was sentenced to three-and-a-half years at Southwark Crown Court on Wednesday, September 2, after pleading guilty of fraud by false representation, money laundering, conspiracy to defraud and false accounting.

He will serve half the time in prison and the other half on licence.

Marcou ran commodity supplier Abacus Trading Company Ltd for twenty years, and held contracts with supermarkets such as Aldi, Lidl, Sainsbury’s and Asda.

He used his legitimate invoices and contracts from these companies to open lines of credit with Barclays.

Marcou then submitted falsified invoices to get more credit, known as 'fresh air invoicing', to fraudulently extract money from the bank.

Using an HSBC account, he repaid Barclays just enough of their own money to give the impression the debts were being serviced.

The rest of the money was put into a personal account through a sham company called County Foods, and used to fund a lavish lifestyle. He owned two homes worth more than £700,000 each, and cars worth £650,000 including three Bentleys, three Aston Martins, a Porsche 911, and a Rolls Royce Silver Spirit.

The fraud came to light in July 2009, when Marcou accidentally tried to pay Barclays with two cheques from Abacus’ sister company, which he had marked as originating from legitimate suppliers.

The bank became suspicious and appointed auditors to investigate. The 'fresh air invoices' were then discovered, which the auditors suggested could leave Barclays with a £4m debt.

Investigations by the City of London Police found the actual loss to the bank was £8,576,811, and in November 2010 Marcou was arrested.

His father Dimitrios Marcou was also pursued in a civil case by Barclays, because he had stood as the guarantor for the business. He sold a home in order to pay Barclays the money he had guaranteed.

Detective Sergeant Lizzie Roberts, speaking on behalf of the City of London Police, said: “Marcou ran a legitimate business which could have been successful for many years, but instead he succumbed to greed and perpetrated a huge fraud.

“Unfortunately for him, the City of London Police are experts at investigating and prosecuting complex fraud, and he has now lost everything and will be spending a significant amount of time behind bars, proving once again that those who commit crimes will be caught – no matter how well they think they have covered their tracks.

Alex Grant, head of fraud prevention at Barclays, said: “Having discovered payment irregularities we immediately alerted the authorities and have co-operated closely with City of London Police throughout this investigation. We work tirelessly to spot, disrupt and defeat attempted fraudsters, and we welcome the successful conclusion of this case.”