Hedge fund boss Odey fails to strike out indecent assault case

LONDON, Feb 18 (Reuters) - A London judge on Thursday rejected an attempt by the lawyer of Crispin Odey, one of Britain’s most high-profile hedge fund managers, to throw out an historic indecent assault case early.

Crispin Aylett told Hendon Magistrates’ Court on the second day of the trial that differing accounts by witnesses and a woman, who alleges Odey “lunged” at her and groped her in 1998, could cast doubt on what had happened.

But the judge said that despite a number of inconsistencies “this case calls for an answer and must proceed”.

Odey, 62, a muti-millionaire founder of hedge fund Odey Asset Management who donated to Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s leadership campaign, denies a single charge of indecent assault.

Odey has accepted that he verbally propositioned the then 26-year-old junior broker at his home in Chelsea, west London, more than 20 years ago. But he alleges he misread the situation and denies any physical contact, the court has heard.

During a police interview in 2019, which was read out to the court, Odey said she had been appalled when he suggested sex and simply left. He said he had been “undoubtedly foolish to invite her round and she was stupid to accept”, the court heard.

The woman, who wept during questioning on Thursday over a video-link, alleges she and Odey took a taxi to his riverbank home for a business meeting because a pub near his office was too busy.

Once there, he frightened her by changing into a robe and putting a hand on her breast and up her skirt in “an octopussy-type manoeuvre”, she alleged.

The former junior broker, who is based in the United States and cannot be named for legal reasons, reported the alleged incident to police in 2017 as allegations of sexual misconduct by disgraced Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein and the #MeToo movement filled news channels.

Odey faces a maximum jail sentence of 10 years if convicted - although any sentence above six months would have to be decided at the higher Crown Court. The markets watchdog has also banned financial services workers found guilty of sex crimes.

The trial, which has been delayed by technical hitches, will now be adjourned until March 11.

Reporting by Kirstin Ridley; Editing by Nick Macfie