Fraud, Money Laundering and Financial Crime
The firm is regularly instructed in serious fraud cases often involving offences worth millions of pounds. Under the umbrella of “serious fraud” we have experience of allegations of:-
- Insider dealing
- Money laundering cases
- VAT (missing trader) fraud
- Boiler room frauds
- Land banking frauds
- Bribery and corruption cases
- Misconduct in public office
The firm is recommended in the Legal 500 for its fraud work. We are equipped to deal with fraud cases of any complexity and seriousness. We often receive referrals from other major solicitors firms dealing with fraud cases where a conflict of interest arises as we are known to be able to meet the unique challenges that these cases present with a minimum of fuss and the requisite degree of expertise. Such cases require a degree of specialism over and above that required for more general criminal matters and the firm is recognised as provided an excellent service to its clients charged with such offences and to prepare cases thoroughly for trial. We have the ability and experience to cope with the huge volume of material that these investigations produce and to ensure that the client is able to participate effectively in his or her own defence by giving instructions focussed on the main issues in the case.
Some cases have a high profile both in the UK and internationally, in particular those involving very large amounts of money or allegations of insider dealing. Many fraud cases are not headline makers but are no less important to our client. In each case we ensure that the client benefits from our considerable experience in this complex area of work.
Fraud, Money Laundering and Financial Crime
Allegations of fraud and financial crime vary considerably. Birds Solicitors has expertise across the spectrum of financial crime and has been involved in some of the major financial crime cases of the last 15 years. We have defended prosecutions brought by all of the various prosecution agencies including the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), Serious Fraud Office (SFO), National Crime Agency (NCA), the specialist fraud section of the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) and also the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP).
Insider dealing cases are mainly investigated and prosecuted by the FCA. On occasions the FCA prefers regulatory enforcement over criminal prosecution. It is common in such investigations that a suspect is arrested and has their house and place of work searched before interview under caution at the police station. There is very often a lengthy period on pre-charge bail with further interviews within that period before any decision is made whether to charge the individual with any offences.
The FCA has huge resources for detection of insider dealing offences and has a range of powers at their disposal including arrest and search of premises, interviewing suspects in detention at police stations and restraining accounts throughout the world.
The criminal offences of insider dealing are punishable by a maximum of seven years’ imprisonment or an unlimited fine. These cases almost inevitably attract immediate custodial sentences on conviction.
The firm has been involved in the most recent high profile prosecutions by the FCA for insider dealing, Operation Saturn and Operation Tabernula. In both cases the FCA alleged that inside information was used to place spread bets on the value of company shares. The nature of the cases was very different but both were extremely document heavy and complex matters to defend.
It is important that the defence solicitor is able to understand the issues concerned and to handle and manipulate the documentary evidence produced by both the Crown and the defendant or co-defendants in the case.
Our experience in these types of cases means that we are able to provide a team of individuals to work on the case tailored to the requirements of the case. The team will always be led by a Director who will work on the case on a day to day basis and be responsible for ensuring that the case is properly managed throughout. We are well known for providing hands on representation at the most senior level to these cases whether legally aided or privately funded.
The Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 (“POCA”) creates a number of offences generically referred to as money laundering offences. These offences are aimed at the movement, concealment and conversion of criminal property. It is illegal to conceal, disguise, convert or transfer criminal property or to remove it from the jurisdiction (s327 POCA). It is also illegal to enter into or become concerned in any arrangement which the individual knows or suspects facilitates the acquisition, retention, use or control of criminal property for or on behalf of another person (s328 POCA). Equally it is an offence to acquire, use or possess criminal property (s329 POCA).
POCA also creates offences aimed at the regulated sector concerning failure to disclose suspicions about money laundering activity by others in certain circumstances and tipping off individuals who may be the subject of an investigation. These offences put professionals at risk of prosecution for actions within their normal working routine. It is essential that anyone who is likely to be affected by these provisions of POCA receives adequate anti-money laundering training.
Birds Solicitors has dealt with numerous cases involving allegations of money laundering, many involving very large sums of money. These cases often involve very extensive investigations and the cases can involve many thousands of pages of evidence including complex accounting documentation. We are well equipped to manage these cases, evaluate the strength of the evidence (with or without the assistance of experts) and to guide the defendant through the complex process of preparing such a case for trial.
Boiler room and land banking frauds
These types of fraud are very similar in construction. A “boiler room” fraud normally involves potential investors being cold called by a salesman seeking to sell them shares in companies that turn out not to be worth the amount paid or at worst entirely worthless or non-existent. They do not always involve the sale of bogus shares but can include the sale of other commodities for alleged investment such as coloured diamonds or wine.
Where the commodity in question is a parcel of land, the fraud is commonly referred to as a land banking fraud. In these cases the parcel of land is often said to be a good development investment by the salesman but in fact has no chance of obtaining planning permission or is otherwise unsuitable for development as being geographically unsuitable or within an area where no development is permitted.
The salesmen often use high pressure techniques and make statements about the investment which are untrue or deliberately misleading. It is common for pseudonyms to be sued and for the callers to be based abroad or in serviced offices in the UK which move on a regular basis.
Investigations into these offences are complex and can take a long time to come to fruition. Defendants can be on bail pending charge for many months and may be interviewed by the authorities on numerous occasions. The investigation will inevitably include detailed financial analysis of company and personal accounts.
It is important that anyone suspected of such an offence obtains expert legal advice from a solicitor with experience of such cases as soon as possible. This firm has a wealth of experience in defending boiler room type frauds involving the sale of shares and other commodities and cases involving the sale of parcels of land. We can assist and advise from the earliest stage in the case.
Bribery and corruption
Most people understand the concept of bribery and corruption as the act of giving money or goods to another person in exchange for them doing something to benefit of the person providing the money or gift. In business the lines may become blurred particularly where dealings with individuals outside of the UK are concerned and in certain industries where such payments may be or have been reasonably common place.
However, where such allegations are investigated, they can be extremely complex and lengthy enquiries. Often they involve allegations of payments being made to certain individuals within companies to place a contract for goods or services with a specific company, favouring a specific company in a tender process or providing a “kick back” commission for the provision of the contract. The situation may arise where the allegation is that an individual in a financial institution is provided with payment for authorising a loan to a company.
We have experience of acting in such cases including cases involving the placing of multi-million pound international contracts, UK contracts worth millions of pounds and kick back commission for loans worth millions of pounds.
Our experience of these specific types of case and large fraud related cases in general means that we are able to deal with the issues that arise in such investigations and prosecutions. We are able to handle the complex issues that such cases often throw up where details of the workings of various industries have to be understood by the advising lawyer. We have the ability to deal with such paper heavy cases and to manage the case appropriately and efficiently for the client whether it proceeds to trial or not.
Misconduct in public office
This offence has had a resurgence in recent years with the ill fated Operation Elveden cases. we were involved in that enquiry representing a journalist who was charged with offences involving the encouragement of police officers to provide information for payment contrary to the obligations of their public office.
We have also acted in a case where an employee of the prison service was accused of facilitating the provision of mobile telephones into the prison where he worked in obvious contravention of his obligations as a public servant. That case raised interesting issues as to whether he was in a “public office” given his position.
Additionally issues of public interest can arise in such cases and the defence lawyer has to be able to embrace any such issues and present the argument forcefully on their client’s behalf.
These cases may not be so prevalent going forward although there are some investigations on-going specifically in relation to the prison service and the alleged abuse of prisoners from the 1970’s onwards (an investigation in which we have an interest) that may lead to allegations of a similar nature being made.
the nature of these types of cases can vary considerably but at their most complex they are as complicated as any other bribery and fraud related case and can involve long term investigations and many thousands of pages of evidence and unused material for the defence to consider. It is imperative that anyone arrested or suspected of such an offence seeks legal advice from a suitably experienced solicitor as soon as possible. We are able to assist with such advice given our experience of such cases.
Examples of our previous fraud related cases
Our previous fraud related cases include:
- The “Robinsons” legal aid fraud case in which we represented one of the 29 defendants in a large scale fraud on the legal aid fund by a firm of solicitors called Robinsons who were allegedly making fraudulent claims on the legal aid fund for payment in cases where work had not been undertaken or had been exaggerated. This was an extremely complex fraud cases involving a warehouse of paperwork and an investigation which took many years to get to trial. Our client was acquitted after a trial lasting 13 months.
- We were involved in the first major prosecution for insider dealing by the FCA (Operation Saturn) which at that time was a flagship prosecution for that organisation.
- Subsequently we were instructed in what has been described as one of, if not, the largest FCA insider dealing investigation (Operation Tabernula) which involves the prosecution of bankers and traders allegedly engaged in an insider dealing conspiracy worth several million pounds.
- We were also involved in the LIBOR and Foreign Exchange enquiries (see regulatory investigations) acting as an Independent Legal Adviser in the internal bank investigation and in relation to an investigation by the FCA. In these cases no charges were brought against our client.
- We successfully represented a company director in a corruption case where the alleged victim was a large rail company.
- We also represented an MP in an investigation into expense claims conducted by the Metropolitan Police but which concluded with no action being taken.
- We also successfully defended a journalist charged in the well publicised police operation known as Operation Elveden. These case involved allegations that journalists from a national newspaper paid police officers (and other public officials) for information on which they based stories in the newspaper
- We successfully defended a man charged with a large scale and extremely complex land banking fraud in which parcels of land were sold to potential investors at prices considerably higher than the land was said to be worth.
- In relation to “boiler room” type fraud cases, we have defended in cases involving the sale of shares at inflated prices (similar to land banking) and also in a case where the items made available for alleged investment were coloured diamonds.
- We are defending someone accused of a large scale conspiracy to accept corrupt payments. It is alleged that our client facilitated payments through a business account which were to be passed onto an individual who was employed by an international bank in return for the approval of loans in various multi million pound transactions.
If you are suspected of benefit fraud, you may be called for interview under caution. As this is not an interview with a police officer, it is not covered by the legal aid police station advice and assistance scheme but is covered by the more general advice and assistance legal aid scheme which is strictly means tested. If you are working, you may not be eligible for advice under this scheme and would have to pay privately for any advice. We will assess your eligibility prior to any interview and would require you to sign a legal advice form prior to attending any interview with you.
If you are interviewed we can seek to divert you from the criminal justice system by negotiation with the DWP and, if you are charged, subject to a grant of legal aid or private funds being available, represent you at the Magistrates’ Court and Crown Court should the case progress that far.
We have represented numerous people accused of such fraud from a relatively low level to alleged frauds involving many thousands of pounds.
If you wish to seek advice in relation to any fraud related matter, you should in the first instance contact Steven Bird (firstname.lastname@example.org) by email or telephone.
Steven Bird has been handling large scale frauds for 25 years including the Robinsons legal aid fraud, land banking frauds, a number of boiler room frauds, corruption and the insider dealings cases mentioned above.
If the matter is a DWP fraud, you should contact Sarah Mirza by email or telephone (email@example.com).
A guidance brochure detailing our services in fraud, confiscation and regulatory cases can be downloaded here.