A HEARTLESS conman who duped investors out of more than £260,000 to fund a lavish lifestyle has failed in a bid to block prosecutors from stripping him of his ill-gotten gains.

Stewart Kennedy told a string of investors that a franchise in his business was the “financial opportunity of a lifetime” for them.

But the 52-year-old crook used the cash to pay for two trips to America, at a cost of nearly £30,000, and meet the £1,400-per-month bill for his son’s London flat.

Kennedy went on a cruise, visited New York and Florida, as well as Greece, and bought jewellery for his wife and tickets to Rangers games.

Among those taken in by his scam were cancer consultant Hosney Yosef, pharmacist Yassir Shaheen, project manager Osamah Shaheen, former deputy headteacher Mary Scott, former financial consultant Sanjay Bhaduri, ex-law lecturer Manjit Bhogal, property investor Pauline Bailey, joiner Andrew Aitken, mechanic Michael Barrett, pub owner Brian McGeoch, homeowner Carole Reid, unemployed Allan Walker and Barrhead hairdresser Maxine McFarlane.

Also duped was plumber Stuart Caldwell, who gave Kennedy a total of £33,000 and never got any of the cash back.

When Mr Caldwell went to Kennedy’s home in Quarriers Village, Bridge of Weir, to find out what had happened to his investment, the thug attacked him with a baseball bat.

After he was convicted at Paisley Sheriff Court, prosecutors began a Proceeds of Crime action to try to seize the money Kennedy made during his fraudulent scheme.

And, last week, he failed in a bid to stop his ill-gotten gains being seized when he returned to the dock.

Defence solicitor Terry Gallanagh, a partner in law firm McCusker, McElroy and Gallanagh, argued the Proceeds of Crime action was “not competent” as prosecutors have not followed the correct protocols in starting proceedings against his client.

He said the wording of the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 showed that the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service had initiated proceedings against Kennedy too late as they did it after he had been convicted and while he was awaiting sentence.

The lawyer added: “Therefore, there has been a postponement without the requirement [of the Crown initiating proceedings] being made in a timely fashion.

“I submit this is an incompetent procedure.”

However, procurator fiscal depute David McDonald, who prosecuted the case, argued that the cash-grab bid should be allowed to proceed.

He told the court: “I submit it is indeed competent. The terms of the [Proceeds of Crime Act] are quite clear – from my reading of the Act, I can find no mention of a time limit for any such motion [to seize assets or money] being made.”

Mr McDonald also said the reason the motion to seize Kennedy’s assets has been made later than normal was due to “a material change in circumstances.”

He added: “There was a submission made on Mr Kennedy’s behalf [during a sentencing hearing] that he had ‘£50,000 resting in a relative’s account for good housekeeping reasons’ and he disclosed to the social worker [preparing a background report ahead of sentencing] that he was earning circa £95,000 per year, in contrast to evidence Mr Kennedy himself provided during the trial that he was in fact unemployed.”

Sheriff Ireland then threw out Kennedy’s bid to block the Proceeds of Crime probe and adjourned the case until later this year for a further hearing to take place.