A BLACK belt martial arts instructor has been jailed for three years for a nearly £200,000 con involving 60,000 people.

Paul Griffin, of Princes Avenue, Corringham, is a 7th level Dan black belt and ran the British National Martial Arts Association from his home.

But Griffin, who has trained several martial arts champions and been involved in television shows about the sport, was the brains behind a four-year long con.

He began organising insurance for members of the Derby-based Amateur Martial Association (AMA) in 2001.

The insurance is required by law for people taking part in the sport.

But between 2001 and 2004, instead of arranging full insurance cover for the AMA’s more than 60,000 members, he pocketed the cash.

Griffin pocketed £182,386 in fees and his scam meant thousands of people taking part in the sport would not have been insured if they caused or suffered serious injury.

Derby Crown Court heard the AMA became suspicious of Griffin after members made several queries about their insurance policies.

The AMA also made several unsuccessful attempts to contact him.

They called in police and Griffin’s con was uncovered.

After a complex four-year investigation, Griffin finally pleaded guilty to theft and was jailed for three years.

Investigating officer Sgt Matt Carson, of Derbyshire police, welcomed the sentence.

He said: “This was a long and laborious case so it is satisfying the people involved have some sense of justice.

“One of the biggest challenges was going through all the data we received – this was a mammoth task.

“The most worrying thing about the case was that of the 63,369 members put through by the AMA to Griffin, 60,281 were not insured or insured correctly, which meant they had no cover at all.”

Judge Robert Brown said Griffin’s actions had put thousands of martial arts students and instructors at “serious risk” of injury for which they would not be covered.