A FORMER finance company director and accountant described as "having no moral compass" by a judge, is beginning a five-and-a-half year prison sentence for his role in a series of mortgage frauds involving millions of pounds.

Robert Maxwell, 69, of Richmond Road, Six Bells, had a leading role as one of seven men involved in a series of conspiracies to defraud, over more than four-and-a-half years from January 2009, involving at least 80 fraudulent mortgage applications.

Two other Gwent men - Omer Mian, 45, of Conway Road, Newport, and Malcolm Pow, 57, of Heol Towy, Caldicot - were also involved.

Mian, sentenced today with Maxwell, will serve two years and five months in prison, and Pow, who was sentenced last Friday, will serve two years and two months.

The other defendants are: Peter Gay, 64, of Whitchurch, Cardiff; Kenneth Bacon, 66, of Efailwen, Carmarthenshire; Michael Bishop, 39, of Singapore; and Supriya Misra, 39, of Church Village, Pontypridd.

All have backgrounds in banking, accountancy or financial services, or worked in the financial sector.

Gay was sentenced to three years and nine months in prison, Bacon to five years, Bishop to four years, and Misra to two years and nine months. All pleaded guilty to, or were convicted after trial of, conspiracies to defraud, and making or supplying articles for use in fraud.

Dozens of initially genuine mortgage applications were falsified by the men with false pay slips, false accounts, and false accountants' certificates, to try to ensure applications were approved, without applicants' knowledge. Thousands of pounds exchanged hands in commissions and payments between them.

Prosecuting counsel Jonathan Rees told a sentencing hearing at Cardiff Crown Court that Maxwell, who pleaded guilty to four charges of conspiracy to defraud, had been an in-house accountant before moving into the world of finance.

Working for a company called Mortgage Upkeep, he had trained new mortgage advisors, before moving on to another company, Aspect.

"Despite the trust placed in him, he abused his position to produce fraudulent (mortgage) applications with Mr Gay, Mr Pow, Mr Bishop and Mr Misra," said Mr Rees, who added that when questions began to be asked, "he produced false documents to cover his tracks and those of his co-conspirators."

Maxwell was involved in 46 falsified mortgage applications in which £6.2 million was applied for, and more than £3m loaned.

In all, more than half of the falsified applications were completed, "with lending in excess of £4m," said Mr Rees, who added that the other - unsuccessful or uncompleted - applications potentially involved around £5m.

"Offences of this nature, conducted on an almost industrial scale, undermine public confidence in the mortgage system as a whole."

Sentencing Maxwell today, Judge Martin Fitton told him: "I consider you had a leading role. Your position was one not just of trust, but of a considerable degree of knowledge in the financial industry.

"In a previous role for a financial company, as director you had a responsibility for training and oversight of staff.

"Your inside knowledge put you in a position to act as middle man and facilitator in the conspiracies in which you were involved. You were the link which oiled the wheels of the conspiracies."

Of Maxwell's attempts to cover his and the others' tracks, Judge Fitton said he had been sophisticated in developing a "pre-prepared and packaged lie to protect you on the occasions when people queried your conduct.

"You lied your way out of a corner.

"You have no moral compass. You are a disgrace to your profession, and you have let down all those who trusted you through years of working with you."

Mian, who pleaded guilty to one charge of conspiracy to defraud, was involved in 17 falsified mortgage applications, involving Misra, gay and Maxwell, though several were re-applications. Some £1.7m was applied for, and almost £800,000 was loaned.

Judge Fitton said the applications he was involved with were "somewhat crude" and "very obviously false".

Pow, who pleaded guilty to one charge of conspiracy to defraud, was jailed last Friday, along with Gay, Bacon, Bishop and Misra.

He was involved with Gay and Maxwell in several fraudulent mortgage applications during 2011-13, in which £1.6m was applied for.

Judge Fitton told the men that collectively, they had "put aside considerations of honesty or appropriate conduct, and the sorts of consideration an honest broker or building society agent would wish to fulfil."

Mr Rees paid tribute to the "dedication, integrity and impartiality" of Detective Constable Ed Middleton, of Gwent Police, who has worked on the case since 2011.

He had, said Mr Rees "almost single-handedly carried the burden" until the men were charged, of a case in which the scope of offending grew ever wider.