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By | John Leyden 9th November 2005 16:27

Mystery over 'hidden booty' in email scam trial

Francis-Macrae takes stand, refuses to spill the beans

Peter Francis-Macrae, the 23-year-old who's allegedly the UK's biggest spammer, has testified that he may have "over stepped the mark" in posing as an approved domain registrar at his trial at Peterborough Crown Court this week. Francis-Macrae faces a variety of charges ranging from threats to kill to fraudulent trading.

Operating from a bedroom in his father's home in the town of St. Neots, Cambs, Francis-Macrae allegedly made an estimated £1.5m through a series of domain registration scams, promoted using bulk email. He is accused of fraudulently selling unavailable .eu domains among other dubious business practices dating back five years. He's also accused of sending out fraudulent re-registration letters to UK domain owners.

Testifying on his own behalf, Francis-Macrae said he was taken back by the response to his "registration business" and conceded that he exaggerated what his company might be able to accomplish in registering .eu domains as soon as they were officially released.

"I think, under pressure on occasion I have straddled the line. I may have implied we were an accredited registrar," he told the court, local paper Cambridge Evening News reports.

Later in his testimony Francis-Macrae refused to disclose the location of an estimated £425,000 he'd earned through his domain registration activities. A number of accounts run by Francis-Macrae in the UK have been frozen and thousands in cash were seized when police raided his home but hundreds of thousands remain unaccounted. Francis-Macrae claimed Cambridgeshire police would "steal" the money if he revealed where it was hidden. He declined to answer questions from Judge Nicholas Coleman over the purpose of a trip he made to New York.

Francis-Macrae allegedly resorted to using violent verbal abuse and threats when challenged over the legitimacy of his business activities. He's accused of threatening to slit the throats of trading standards officers investigating suspected scams and of telling a police switchboard operator, who'd recently been diagnosed with cancer, that he hoped she caught the disease.

Francis-Macrae denies making separate threats to kill three people, threatening an arson attack against Cambridgeshire trading standards department, blackmail, fraudulent trading and money laundering offences. The trial, now in its fifth week, continues. ®

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