A former Universal Music executive has admitted in court to stealing almost £650,000 from the major music company. Duncan Schwier, who worked for the production music division of Universal’s publishing business, admitted to taking £643,697 from his employer. 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 non-existent companies.
Schwier has enjoyed a long career in the music production business, originally joining Atmosphere Music in 1984. That company was subsequently bought by the original BMG, the publishing side of which was acquired by Universal in 2007. Becoming a General Manager for Universal Publishing Production Music, he had been very involved in the firm’s alliance with the BBC. Pleading guilty to the fraud, Schwier, without legal representation, told Hammersmith Magistrates Court that ill-health had led to him stealing from Universal. According to the Daily Mail, he said: “The background for this is a series of cancers for which I have medical reports”.
Prosecutor Caroline Mungal said: “The Crown invite the court to commit this matter for sentence. You can see the value of the monies involved, in excess of £600,000. The date range is [also] long”.
She went on: “What has happened in this situation is that Mr Schwier was employed by Universal Music as head of production. He was promoted in early 2013. Mr Schwier moved and his replacement was a person by the name of John Clifford. He noticed there was something strange about some of the transactions. It was discovered that in fact there were a large number of fraudulent transactions”.
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. Referring the case upwards to the Crown Court, chair of the bench at Hammersmith Magistrates, Paul Brooks, told Schwier: “Although you have pleaded guilty to this offence, the amount of money and the period over which this fraud took place means this is too serious for this court to deal with”. In the Crown Court Judge Aidan Marron 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” and sentenced Schwier to three years custody on the 30th September.