A 26-year-old UK finance and credit controller for a communications firm managed to misappropriate around GBP 300 000 a year for over three years to feed an online gambling habit that saw him lose almost a million pounds to Internet gambling sites, reports the Daily Mail.

Christopher Proudfoot (26) transferred the company's cash to his own bank accounts and then squandered the entire sum, the Inverness Sheriff's Court was told this week. At first he stole company money to cover debts he had run up by using sports betting sites, but as his losses mounted he stole increasingly larger amounts from the firm, where he was a trusted employee.

Proudfoot admitted his guilt to the court, saying that he had embezzled GBP 936 452.32 from his employer Highland Nework over a period of three years, and had contemplated suicide as he became every more deeply embroiled.

The case was adjourned for background reports after hearing that Proudfoot has received treatment at New Craigs Psychiatric Hospital in Inverness for depression and has also had counselling to combat his addiction. He said it was his destructive addiction that drove him to depression and to thoughts of taking his own life.

Proudfoot told reporters at the court: "My compulsive gambling has ruined my life. I came to court today to own up to the charge against me. I don't make any excuse for what I have done. I have a severe gambling addiction.

"My situation is very much a warning to others. Online gambling is very easy to do. At the end of the day it is advertised everywhere. When you look at any newspaper, every internet site, TV - all their adverts have some form of gambling adverts.

"Only when you try to combat it, do you realise how much it is in your face.

"I am very sorry to the company. It was never my intention to do this. The intention of gambling was to win, but I found myself in a hole which I could not get out of. All of the gambling was on online sites, and mainly on sports accounts. The first I knew of the actual amount was when the police told me. I was shocked. I just got in a hole."

Proudfoot, currently living with his parents in Inverness, was described by the prosecutor as "effectively a man of straw - the money he embezzled is lost."

Sheriff Ian Abercrombie called for background reports, including a psychiatric assessment, before sentencing next month.

A spokeswoman for Highland Network, which employs around 25 staff, refused to comment until Proudfoot, a first offender, is sentenced.

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