A Norwich-based broker has been jailed for six years after being convicted of defrauding clients of £18m between 1992 and 2000.

Michael Hart, a former director in Norwich for London-based broker Lucas Fettes & Partners, pleaded guilty to 14 counts of theft.

Hart was employed by Lucas Fettes from October 1998 to April this year.

Of the £1.8m, £1.5m had been spent and prosecutors said Hart and his wife used the money to buy expensive cars and designer clothes.

Hart was ordered to pay back the money still owed to clients within nine months. His home at Framingham Pigot is up for sale, and is expected to account for most of the shortfall.

Hart defrauded clients by depositing cheques from them directly into accounts he had set up at Abbey National, Leeds & Holbeck Building Society and Norwich & Peterborough Building Society.

Hart kept all the documents relating to the fraud either at home or in his car. Lucas Fettes became aware of the fraud only after a client complained in April.

Lucas Fettes director David Fettes said: "We couldn't stop it because we didn't know it was going on."

Fettes said the company had been talking to the FSA on a "very regular basis" and he has requested a meeting with the banks and building societies involved to discuss how the money had been "laundered".

During the hearing details also emerged of an earlier conviction of two counts of theft involving false accounting in 1985.

Fettes was not aware of the prior convictions.