Hedge fund manager Crispin Odey has been found not guilty of indecently assaulting a young woman at his London home more than two decades ago.
Odey, one of the UK’s best-known hedge fund managers, said he was “embarrassed” by the incident in summer 1998 at his home in Swan Walk, Chelsea but denied the single charge against him.
Odey, 62, had told Westminster Magistrates’ Court the woman, who cannot be identified for legal reasons, was “exaggerating, massively” in her account of what happened.
Judge Nicholas Rimmer said today that he could not dismiss the possibility that Odey only verbally propositioned the junior investment banker.
He said: “I am left unsure of (the complainant’s account) because despite the strength of her emotion and tears, her credibility has been thrown into question and her evidence is riddled with troubling inconsistencies.”
Addressing Mr Odey directly, the judge said: “I find you not guilty of this offence.
“I acquit you, and you will leave this courthouse with your good character intact.”
Odey, who was 39 at the time, while the woman was in her mid-20s, is alleged to have put his hand down the woman’s shirt to touch her breast and to have put his hand up her skirt.
The two-and-a-half-day trial previously heard that the she described the alleged assault as “like an octopus experience”.
Odey said he received an email from her in 2013 accusing him of groping her, which he described as “nothing like my own recollection of the evening”.
He told the court he responded, seeking to “conciliate her”.
He said: “It was something I didn’t want to come out. It was deeply embarrassing.”
Odey said he only told his wife, Nichola Pease, who is also a hedge fund manager and has supported him throughout the trial, about the incident in 2017 after the alleged victim went to police amid the #MeToo movement.
He told defence counsel Crispin Aylett QC the impact of the allegation on him was “horrible”.
He said: “It is a horrible thing, a horrible slur.”
Giving evidence from the witness box during the trial, father-of-three Mr Odey said: “I am embarrassed to say if she had gone along with it, I would have gone further.”
Asked if he would have “taken the opportunity” to sleep with her that night, had it arisen, Mr Odey replied: “I might have … I don’t know, it didn’t happen.”
Mr Aylett cited “contradictions” in the complainant’s evidence during his defence and said she had a “natural tendency to embellish and exaggerate”, which he said made her “look like an unreliable historian”.
Summing up, he said she “waited and waited until events on the other side of the world led her to believe she might become a standard bearer for a regiment of other complaints against Crispin Odey”.
The judge added that he found it “unsurprising” that the Crown Prosecution Service initially decided not to charge Mr Odey, something subsequently reviewed and overturned by a chief crown prosecutor, despite no “stronger evidence” emerging.
And he said: “Where there is any doubt in a criminal case, given the high standard of proof, it must be resolved in favour of the defendant.
“I cannot dismiss the possibility that no more than your unwanted verbal advance or proposition to the complainant occurred on the evening in question.”
Mr Odey earned £28 million in 2008 after successfully predicting the credit crunch, and backed a no-deal Brexit, but denied he was doing so in order to profit from a fall in the value of British companies.
The vocal Brexit backer, who is worth about £800 million, according to the Sunday Times Rich List, was briefly married to media mogul Rupert Murdoch’s eldest daughter Prudence in the mid-1980s.
He stepped down as chief executive of Odey Asset Management last November, the company he founded in 1991, saying he would focus on managing his own funds.