Former Wales and British and Irish Lions halfback Gareth Cooper has revealed he was defrauded of more than £1 million (NZ$2m) by his wife and friend.

The 40-year-old read out a personal victim statement in a Cardiff court this week where his ex wife Debra Leyshon admitted to 13 counts of fraud amounting to just over £1 million.

Leyshon along with the Welsh international's former business partner Simon Thomas and associate Mark Lee were listed for sentence next week.

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The Cardiff Crown Court heard how Cooper set up a company and gym which was run by his wife and Thomas as he continued playing rugby.

He was led to believe the gym was thriving.

"The opposite was true," prosecutor Roger Griffiths said. "The businesses were in financial trouble. Dishonest methods were used to keep them going."

Without Cooper's knowledge, large loans were taken out while the family home was re-mortgaged. Months after finding out of the loans he removed an email telling him he was bankrupt.

"This has had a profound and devastating effect on both me and my family," Cooper said in court.

"I was happily married with three children, enjoying a career playing a sport I excelled in for many years."

Cooper said he had to move back in with his parents who helped him pay legal bills, which they did by cashing in their pensions.

"[This] at a time when they should be planning for their retirement. I will always be profoundly grateful for their support."