The ex-wife of Jon Molyneux, the former chief executive of Scoot.com, has pleaded guilty to hiring a hitman to kill her husband for his life insurance money, the Old Bailey heard on Monday.
Shelley Molyneux, who has four children, and whose 21-year marriage ended earlier this year, admitted in court that she had paid a hitman £20,000 to kill her husband. But the man was really an undercover tabloid newspaper reporter, who worked with police to gather evidence against her.
The case adds to Scoot.com's afflictions, the embattled online directory service that has also faced allegations of shady stock-market dealings, and was allegedly the target of a smear campaign by off-shore businessmen who tapped an executive's mobile phone.
Prosecutors told the court that the Molyneuxes lived in a £500,000 house in Essex and that Jon Molyneux earned £175,000 a year as Scoot chief executive, a post he took up in 1999 after leaving Apple Computer (UK). Molyneux had an estimated £1m fortune and the family's luxuries included five foreign holidays a year and expensive cars, according to a report in The Evening Standard.
But the bursting of the dot-com bubble, and Scoot's particular problems, led to Molyneux stepping down from the post, and the Molyneuxes began divorce proceedings. At that time Shelley Molyneux contacted a private investigator, who put her in touch with the supposed hitman.
After arranging the hit, she left for a skiing holiday with her new boyfriend to provide an alibi, prosecutors said, and she was arrested when she returned to London in February. The defence argues that she was entrapped into arranging the hit. She is due to be sentenced next month.
Jon Molyneux is not the only Scoot executive to allegedly be the target of a malicious plan. Scoot co-founder Robert Bonnier claimed that a dirty tricks campaign was launched against him in order to manipulate Scoot shares and further the interests of an obscure Monaco businessman.
Bonnier had become involved with share dealings that were financed by former Scoot chairman Ronald Zimet, an Israeli businessman. Bonnier alleged that a conspiracy had been mounted against him by Monaco businessman Andrew Regan in order to discredit Zimet, who was to be a witness for the prosecution against Regan in a criminal trial.
Bonnier said that his wife's car had been followed, his mobile phone bugged and that taxis he called had secret recording equipment. He said that Regan was the source of a mysterious dossier circulated to major newspapers, alleging that Scoot inflated its subscriber figures.
The financial services authority is also understood to have investigated the source of the sharp fluctuations in Scoot's share price.
More recently, Scoot was bought this summer by British Telecommunications for a bargain-basement £8m, about 0.3 percent of its £2.5bn value at the height at the dot-com boom.
The case continues.