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Lewis Nedas News

Lewis Nedas Law are London-based solicitors. Frequently rated in both Chambers UK and The Legal 500, we can help you or your business today. Tel: 020 7387 2032.
SEP
07

Stunning Confiscation Success for Lewis Nedas Law and Paul Mason

confiscationPaul represented a client who in 2010 received a confiscation order in the sum of £514,000, or failing the payment of those monies, would have served three and a half years further imprisonment in default. This included the issue of hidden assets.

By June 2016 there remained a balance of £318,174.35 plus interest of £163,012.33 outstanding; the authorities had begun enforcement proceedings and the client was facing an additional period of imprisonment.

Paul began work, digging away and analysing the outstanding sums. As a result of his excellent work, the Court agreed a further Variation order leaving a nil balance due.

Needless to say the client was elated and said "Brilliant. Now I can start my new life. Thanks for everything Paul. You were the only man who could have pulled this off'.

The prosecuting and investigating authorities are under enormous pressure to institute confiscation proceedings and enforcement of those orders. Many of the authorities are now pursuing Civil Enforcement proceedings, e.g. FCA, NCA and some local government and Trading Standards authorities have been successful with these types of civil proceedings. Through following these civil actions they can avoid lengthy, costly Crown Court trials which they may or may not win.

Additionally, City of London police have created a panel of City firms of lawyers to instigate confiscation and enforcement proceedings upon their behalf, which has caused some concern in legal and judicial circles for a number of reasons. The SFO, rather unfairly in our view, have been criticised by another City firm for not pursuing more restraint and confiscation orders; they at least think carefully before restraining assets and are correct to do so.

This means that confiscation and enforcement proceedings are going to top of the Prosecutors agenda firm now on.

 

If you are seeking to dispute, defend or vary a restraint order whether Civil or Criminal Restraint, or wish to defend Confiscation or Enforcement proceedings;Please contact us on 0207 387 2032 or use our online enquiry facility at www.lewisnedas.co.uk

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JUN
27

Confiscation Success in SFO Prosecution for Lewis Nedas Law client and Siobhain Egan

SFOSiobhain represented a company director who pleaded guilty to a £50 million pension fraud, prosecuted by the SFO.

Her client received a suspended prison sentence after the sentencing Judge heard detailed mitigation, (the co-defendant received a sentence in excess of 10 years). At the confiscation, the judge ordered that our client pay £218,522.00 in compensation and confiscation from restrained assets, a much reduced figure than originally sought by the SFO.

The excellent Mark Smith of Counsel, 5 St. Andrews Hill, was the instructed advocate.

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MAY
05

A Series of White Collar Crime and Fraud Investigation Defence Successes for Lewis Nedas Law and Siobhain Egan

Siobhain is regularly instructed to defend the full range of white collar/financial crime and fraud allegations. Over the last 10 months, she has successfully represented a number of individuals facing the complete range of offences including; investigations mounted by the SFO, City of London Police and other specialist fraud police units up and down the country.

Each of these particular investigations were effectively 'nipped in the bud' at an early stage, largely because of her pro-active defence work undertaken immediately upon being instructed by our clients. Such clients included; Directors of FTSE 500 companies or those whose companies listed on the AIM market, accountants, senior IT specialists and other finance professionals.

The key to success is to collate all of the relevant defence documentation as soon as possible, take detailed instructions, instruct all relevant independent experts to assess the information and to make robust and persuasive representations to the investigating authorities.

 

Contact Lewis Nedas Expert Fraud Lawyers

If you are facing an allegation of fraud or white collar crime, contact our specialist fraud defence Lawyers at Lewis Nedas Law on 0207 387 2032 or complete our online enquiry form here.

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MAR
23

SFO Investigation of Celtic Energy

fraudThe Serious Fraud Office (SFO) often employs all of the tools at its disposal in order to investigate any suspicion of fraudulent activity. In its work, the SFO will only act if it is convinced that there is real evidence of suspect activity, in order to bring a successful investigation and if need be, legal action against the perpetrators. It is surprising therefore when the SFO fails to identify fraudulent activity, and is ordered to repay others for the impact of being under investigated as was the case with Celtic Energy Ltd in February earlier this year.

What was the SFO investigating?

This case has quite a complicated history. In 2013 the SFO had brought charges of conspiracy to defraud against two senior executives at Celtic Energy Ltd, a company specialising in opencast mining, and four lawyers that were advising the company. Through its operations Celtic Energy had come into possession of a coal mine in South East Wales. However when a company ceases mining activities, certain obligations are imposed on it to restore the site to the condition it was in before mining began – so to be the case with Celtic Energy.

There was an allegation from the SFO that Celtic Energy along with its legal advisors had planned to create a company that would be based in the British Virgin Islands, and to transfer the leases of the four minds that it operated to this company. The SFO claimed that this was with a view i.e. a conspiracy to defraud not only the city councils in the area, but also the Coal Authority in allowing it to avoid its legal obligations to restore the pitts, and to pay the cost involved which was estimated to run into several million pounds.

What was the decision?

This case was ultimately dismissed by the courts on the basis that there was no evidence had acted unlawfully – regardless of whether or not they had acted dishonestly. The SFO attempted to restart the court action against Celtic Energy by using a specialised procedure known as “voluntary bill of indictment”. This was refused by the High Court. In nearly a year since the case was dismissed by the courts, the High Court in Cardiff issued a judgement that the legal costs of the claim i.e. the cost of the barristers arguing the case and two High Court hearings, estimated at around £7 million, was to be paid by the SFO. The order to pay legal costs has significant consequences for the SFO, whose role in the UK has come under increasing criticism in recent years.

Why wasn’t the court persuaded that there was a conspiracy to defraud?

Fraud is an inherently difficult crime to prove, and conspiracy to defraud is equally complex to establish in a court of law. The Fraud Act 2006 sets out precisely what is required in order to prove that fraud had taken place:

  • • Fraud by representation;
  • • Fraud by failing to disclose information; or
  • • Fraud by abuse of position

The ‘conspiracy’ element is not actually contained in the legislation, but is part of the common or ‘judge-made’ law. It was created to make up for the fact that the legislation had certain loopholes that had been exposed in later cases. In order to prove ‘conspiracy’ the SFO, in conducting its investigation and prosecution, would have to prove that there is a plan between parties to commit fraudulent activity.

In the case of Celtic Energy, the court was not convinced that there was any fraudulent activity for the following reasons:

  1. The plan of Celtic Energy to transfer the leases the leases it held for the coal mines could be deemed dishonest, but were not illegal; and
  2. In order to prove that there was a conspiracy to defraud the local councils and the Coal Authority, the court needed evidence that they had suffered financial loss as a result of the transfer of the leases. This was not proven. The court drew special attention to the fact that as criminal courts, they are not concerned with the “commercial morality” of Celtic Energy’s dealings. While the plans of the company and its legal advisors may be subject to criticism in the marketplace, this did not amount to criminal activity. Furthermore the court also criticised the SFO for failing to point out what was in fact demonstrable illegal activity, and only identifying what it thought of as illegal. Fraud cases, no matter how they are presented, are incredibly difficult to prosecute. Allegations of a ‘conspiracy to defraud’ make the work of the SFO much more difficult: they must prove that a party had planned to do something illegal.

The case of Celtic Energy is one of the two most notable instances where the SFO has failed to prove its case, and have been ordered to pay several million pounds in compensation.

Contact Lewis Nedas

At Lewis Nedas we have a long and successful history of advising clients concerned with investigation by the SFO and other regulatory bodies. Our dedicated team of Financial Crime lawyers are very familiar with this area of the law, and regularly advise and represent clients in their dealings with regulatory agencies. If you are concerned that your organisation may face an investigation, contact us now. We understand that the prospect of legal action against you or your firm can have a tremendous impact not only on you personally but also the reputation of your firm. We will work in partnership with you to ensure that you understand your rights, and that you are represented by expert lawyers who will handle your case with professionalism and integrity. If you have any questions please contact us on 0207 387 2032 or complete our online enquiry form.

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MAR
20

The Investigation of Ethical Investments and Fraud

SFOThe Serious Fraud Office (SFO) is the UK’s investigative and prosecuting body for dealing with cases of serious fraud and bribery. Owing to the increasing complexity with which fraudsters operate, the SFO employs sophisticated means to investigate suspicious activity. It recently featured in the press, with its criminal investigation into an “Ethical” Investment Company.

What is being investigated?

In March this year, the SFO announced that it had opened a criminal investigation into the dealings of two companies, Global Forestry Investment and Global Forex Investments, and their potentially fraudulent activity. Both companies are headed up by the same people: business partners Mr Andrew Skeene and Mr Omario Bowers, who founded their company GFI Consultants Ltd in April 2010. Following the creation of their consulting company, both gentlemen invited potential clients to a business event where they would give potential investors greater insight into available investment opportunities. Investors were given information regarding an allegedly lucrative investment project in Brazil, the Global Forestry Investments Belem Sky Plantation. The Plantation was described as having huge potential and which could grant a return of up to 20% to investors, through investing in sustainable forestry.

The project was described by Mr Skeene and Mr Bowers as allowing investors to “participate in an ethical and financially rewarding investment.” The investment was presented in the following manner: investors were to lease a plot of land on the timber plantation in Brazil. The value of their investment and the return they could expect was to be based on the trees growing on the land. The project used specialist timber management companies who would then lease the plots from the investors and manage the land on their behalf. The minimum investment was £5,000 with no upper limit. It was claimed that the Rental fees, which were to be £500 per 0.1 hectare plot per year, depending on the timber management company that the investor had chosen. This was to bring about a 10% return, with more to come in the following years. The interesting point to note is that in their literature, GFI Consultants Ltd did highlight (in the small print at the back of their brochure of investment information):

“GFI Consultants Ltd is not regulated by the FSA and is not authorised to offer advice to the general public concerning regulated or unregulated investments. This is not an authorised investment for the purpose of the UK FMSA (2000) and as such buyers have no access to statutory or regulatory protections including the Financial Ombudsman Service and the Financial Services Compensation Scheme.”

In order to give effect to the investment, the land that the investors were to invest in was supposed to be held “in beneficial ownership for the investor” by an organisation called Title Trustees International, a subsidiary of a company called Hutchinson & Co. Trust Company Limited. Hamilton & Co. Trust Company Limited also had another subsidiary, Citadel Trustees which in 2014, changed its name to Highport Trustees.

In what was already becoming a complicated situation, another organisation entered the picture. Emerald Knights, sold the plots of land on the Belem Sky Plantation to the investors and it claimed to investors that Citadel Trustees was regulated by the FSA, even though Global Forestry Investments was not. Investors soon noticed that the investment quickly stopped making payments. In 2013 GFI claimed that this was due to “a cumulate of various factors”, citing severe weather, and a series of banking and logistical issues caused by the regulatory framework in Brazil. In early 2014 GFI claimed that the administrative issues had been resolved. However this did not appease investors who are reported to have lost over £4 million via Global Forestry Investments.

What is the SFO concerned with?

The SFO is concerned that there has been some criminal activity in the alleged ‘ethical’ investment that was being proposed by Global Forestry Investments Ltd, namely Fraud. The law of Fraud is set out in the Fraud Act 2006. The Act defines fraud as: a) The making of a false representation; b) By failing to disclose information if you are under a duty to do so; or c) By abusing the position which you are expected to safeguard. In respect of the activities of Global Forestry Investments, Global Forex Investments and Mr Bowers and Mr Skeene, the SFO will be looking for evidence of Investment Fraud, in that:

  1. They knowingly gave investors information regarding the investment that they knew to be false e.g. the likely return on their investment that they could expect;
  2. They failed to bring to investors’ attention that they knew would have an impact on their decision making; or
  3. In some other way, abusing their position as advisors on potential investments.

The investigation is still ongoing, and has already resulted in the searches on at least two properties in England. If there is any evidence of fraudulent activity, the SFO is entitled to bring both civil and criminal prosecutions against the perpetrators. A civil prosecution by the SFO can result in a substantial fine being issued, while a successful criminal prosecution could result in an individual being imprisoned for up to ten years.

The law of Fraud is very complex, and can be difficult to understand. It effectively looks to guard against any kind of deception that could result in either personal gain or loss to another party. The SFO has developed a very sophisticated structure to investigate cases of alleged fraudulent activity of both individuals and organisations.

Contact Lewis Nedas

At Lewis Nedas we have an expert team of financial crime lawyers, who are regularly involved in a helping clients deal with SFO and other regulatory investigations. We have many years of experience in the field, and work in partnership with our clients to ensure that they are fully advised on the law and how it affects them. If you have any concerns regarding the law on Fraud, or are perhaps concerned about how you or your organisation would be affected by an investigation, please contact us now. We are here to help.

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