Reality TV stars appear in court accused of promoting unauthorised investment scheme

A group of reality TV stars have appeared in court after being charged with being paid to promote an unauthorised investment scheme.

Geordie Shore star and Celebrity Big Brother winner Scott Timlin, 36, appeared at Westminster Magistrates' Court alongside former Love Islander Eva Zapico, 25, and The Only Way Is Essex (TOWIE) member Yazmin Oukhellou, 30, on Thursday.

Seven TV personalities are alleged to have been paid to plug the scheme to their combined 4.5 million Instagram followers.

Among those charged by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) last month were TOWIE original cast member Lauren Goodger, 37 and former Love Islanders Biggs Chris, 32, Rebecca Gormley, 26 and Jamie Clayton, 32.

A total of nine people are accused in relation to an unauthorised foreign exchange trading scheme.

The UK's financial watchdog alleges that between 19 May 2018 and 13 April 2021, Emmanuel Nwanze, 30, and Holly Thompson, 34, used an Instagram account to provide advice on buying and selling investments known as contracts for difference (CFDs) when they were not authorised to do so.

The FCA alleges Nwanze paid the seven reality TV stars to promote the account.

The watchdog brought the charges in a crackdown on "finfluencers" who use their online platforms to offer advice and information on various financial topics.

CFDs are defined by the FCA as high-risk investments used to bet on the price of an asset, in this case the price of foreign currencies.

Nwanze, Thompson, Chris, Clayton, Goodger, Gormley, Oukhellou, Timlin and Zapico each face one count of issuing unauthorised communications of financial promotions.

On Thursday, Timlin, also known as Scotty T, pleaded not guilty to the charge he faces.

Nwanze also pleaded not guilty to the same charge, as well as one count of breaching the General Prohibition.

Thompson, who appeared via video-link alongside Goodger, pleaded not guilty to one count of unauthorised communications of financial promotions.

The remaining defendants gave no indication of their pleas.

Read more from Sky News:
BTS star celebrates discharge from military service
Suspicious Minds and Hooked On A Feeling songwriter dies
Coronation Street star told she has arthritis

The FCA previously warned that 80% of customers lose money when investing in CFDs.

A trial preparation hearing has been set for 11 July at Southwark Crown Court and all nine defendants have been granted unconditional bail until then.