Fraud

Cyber Crime

Ben Douglas-Jones represented a defendant (F) for cyber crime including the procurement of DDOS attacks over a two-year period in which Pay Day loan providers and the Consumer Rights Group forum were targeted.  He received a non-custodial sentence.

 

Double MTIC VAT Fraud

Ben Douglas-Jones, leading Jamie Marsland, secured convictions against James Ponchaud and another following a six week trial of a double MTIC VAT fraud.

 

Operation Park 2014-2016

Ben leading Jennifer Dannhauser, instructed by Colin Davis of Garstangs Cartwright King,  is representing the first defendant of a large organised crime group indicted for the distribution of millions of pounds’ worth of fraudulently obtained mobile telephones in confiscation proceedings following a guilty plea.    

 

Operation Abacus 2014-2016

Ben leading Anthony Hucklesby, instructed by Jeremy Temkin of the Specialist Fraud Division, is prosecuting Nicholas Marcou in confiscation proceedings following his conviction for obtaining £88 million from Barclays in a false invoice and factoring fraud.

 

Operation Canister 2014-2016

Ben leading Carolina Bracken, instructed by Philip Kelly of Grech Gooden, represented the leader of an organised crime group in hidden-assets confiscation proceedings following his involvement in the sale of unregulated telephone insurance.  The case involved the largest amount of unused material ever handles by the relevant Police force.

 

Operation Cleo Ben 2015-2017

Ben, led by Graham Trembath QC, instructed by Seamus Austin of Tuckers, is representing the first defendant in an alleged copycat website conspiracy which is said to have defrauded customers and the government.  The case is listed for a four-month trial.

 

Operation Perali 2014-2016

Ben, instructed by the Specialist Fraud Division, is prosecuting a six-handed VAT acquisition and MTIC fraud on behalf of the Specialist Fraud Division.

 

Operation Valgus 3 2008-2016

Ben, led by Patrick Harrington QC, instructed by Elspeth Pringle of the Specialist Fraud Division, is prosecuting an accountant charged with conspiracy to defraud in the context of a mortgage fraud involving over 1,000 mortgages.  The defendant also faces a second property investment fraud.  The investigation has continued from 2008 and has led to the conviction of 12 defendants in two trials so far.

 

Eric Evans - SFO faces £7m bill for “cataclysmic” changes causing Celtic Energy prosecution to collapse
Eric Evans

SFO faces £7m bill for “cataclysmic” changes causing Celtic Energy prosecution to collapse

The High Court has today ordered the SFO to pay the Defendants’ costs of the failed Celtic Energy prosecution.  The costs exceed £7 million.  They will be assessed by the High Court.


The Defendants, a retired consultant solicitor, Eric Evans, his professional partner, Alan Whiteley, and assistant solicitor, Frances Bodman, had set up a complex commercial transaction involving opencast

mining sites and restoration obligations. A fifth defendant, Stephen Davies QC, had advised on the legality of the scheme. Central to the scheme was Celtic Energy Ltd, South Wales' most successful mining company, whose 100% shareholder, Richard Walters, and their finance director, Leighton Humphreys, were also charged. 


Mr Evans and Mr Humphreys had always vehemently denied having done anything wrong and were indeed keen to show that their conduct was commercially adept.


The case was dismissed by a High Court Judge, Mr Justice Hickinbottom, in December 2013.  

 

The SFO’s attempt to resurrect the prosecution through an application for a voluntary bill of indictment failed in September 2014 when a Court of Appeal Judge, Lord Justice Fulford, dismissed their application.


The High Court (Mr Justice Hickinbottom) has today ordered the SFO to pay the Defendants’ costs which total £6 million.  The costs will be assessed.


The Court described the SFO’s legal analysis of the case, as being subject to “regular, cataclysmic change”. 


The commercial scheme was devised by highly respected commercial solicitor, Eric Evans.  The Court found that the SFO had first pegged its case upon a legal opinion of Stephen Davies QC, a leading insolvency barrister.  He was alleged to have been paid £250,000 to change his mind about the state of the law; so that his views coincided with Evans’.  

 

The SFO later conceded that Messrs Evans and Davies were correct in their analysis of the law and that the SFO had been wrong. The SFO proceeded repeatedly to change their case to circumvent complex arguments of the Defence.


The Court found that the changes were “fundamental”.  Each version of the SFO’s case was “destined to fail in any event”.  “The case presented … changed with the wind, most iterations in turn collapsing under the slightest breeze, to the real prejudice of the [Defendants]”.  “[The initial] case … had no realistic prospect of success, as the SFO belatedly accepted.  The other iterations were attempts to save a fatally-holed ship, that presented as a sequence of different cases that stood no real prospect of success or were in essence too late.” 


The Court found in, wholly exceptionally, awarding criminal costs and in awarding civil costs on an indemnity basis that “… the SFO never approached this case with the requisite degree of legal analytical care or precision.” 


Patrick Harrington QC, of Farrar's Building and John de Waal QC, specialist Chancery Silk led Ben.  They were instructed by Philip Williams and Emma Harris Blackfords Solicitors, South Wales' leading fraud specialists.

 

LANDMARK SUPREME COURT VICTORY FOR THE SERIOUS FRAUD OFFICE

 

SERIOUS FRAUD OFFICE V O'BRIEN [2014] UKSC 23

 

Serious Fraud Office V O'Brien is a massive, landmark legal victory for the Serious Fraud Office. Ben, together with Edward Jenkins QC represented the SFO.

 

On 26th March 2014 the Supreme Court ruled that the SFO is right that disobedience of a pre-trial criminal restraint order is a civil contempt of court. It is not a criminal offence. Furthermore, the Supreme Court found that civil contempt is not extraditable- even though it attracts a 2 year sentence.

 

O'Brien was in Chicago. He was found by the Old Bailey to be in contempt of court. He was extradited to the UK for a boiler room fraud. He was not extradited for the contempt. The Common Serjeant sent O'Brien to prison for 15 months for the contempt.

 

O'Brien appealed. He argued that the contempt was a criminal offence. He said he should not have been dealt with for that offence: he had not been extradited for it.

 

The Court of Appeal disagreed. So did the Supreme Court. They both agreed with the SFO.

 

Had the SFO lost the case, the implications would have been massive. Restraint orders are enforceable in the same way as freezing, search and disclosure orders. Had the SFO lost the case, parties to civil, commercial claims would have had to seek the extradition of other parties who refused to comply with court orders.

 

SFO Blockbuster Case Collapses

After five days of legal submissions, Mr Justice Hickinbottom has dismissed a charge of conspiracy to defraud against five defendants in a commercial transaction worth £170 million. Another defendant, Richard Walters, who did not participate in the dismissal application also benefitted from the decision.

Ben represented the first Defendant, Eric Evans, as specialist fraud and regulatory Counsel.  He was led by criminal Silk, Patrick Harrington QC, of Farrar's Building and John de Waal QC, specialist Chancery Silk.  They were instructed by Blackfords Solicitors, South Wales' leading fraud specialists.

The Defendants, a retired consultant solicitor, Eric Evans, his professional partner, Alan Whiteley, and assistant solicitor, Frances Bodman, had set up a complex commercial transaction involving opencast mining sites and restoration obligations.  A fifth defendant, Stephen Davies QC, had advised on the legality of the scheme.  Central to the scheme was Celtic Energy Ltd, South Wales' most successful mining company, whose 100% shareholder, Richard Walters, and their finance director, Leighton Humphreys, were also charged.  Jonathan Caplan QC of 5 paper buildings advised Stephen Davies QC on abuse of process.  

Mr Evans and Mr Humphreys had always vehemently denied having done anything wrong and were indeed keen to show that their conduct was commercially adept.

 

The court's ruling was reported by the BBC  and The Lawyer.

 

Operation Canister [2013-2014] Ben, leading Joanna James of Apex Chambers, instructed by Grech Gooden Solicitors is representing the first of nine defendants in Operation Canister, a mobile telephone insurance fraud. The unused material in the case is reputedly more voluminous than in any other case investigated by the relevant Police force.

 

SFO v OB  [2011-2014] [2012] EWCA Crim 67; [2012] 1 W.L.R. 3170; [2012] 3 All E.R. 999; [2012] Lloyd's Rep. F.C. 389 (judgment 1); [2012] EWCA Crim 901; [2012] 1 W.L.R. 3188; [2012] 3 All E.R. 1017; [2012] 4 Costs L.R. 678; [2012] 2 Cr. App. R. 29 (judgment 2).  Ben, led by Edward Jenkins QC, successfully persuaded the Court of Appeal that the contempt of court constituted by a breach of a restraint order under the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 s.41 was a civil, not a criminal, contempt, meaning that the principle of speciality did not preclude proceedings for such a contempt against a person who had been extradited to the United Kingdom to face charges of fraud.

Judgment One.

Judgment Two.

The appeal of the decision was heard by the United Kingdom Supreme Court on 5th December 2013 and judgment is pending.

 

Operation Valgus  [2008-2014] Ben, led by Patrick Harrington QC of Farrar’s Building and prosecuting for Elspeth Pringle MBE of the Central Fraud Group in London, recently secured convictions of five defendants in the first of three trials in Operation Valgus and seven defendants in the second trial.

Operation Valgus, a 14-handed mortgage fraud, is reportedly the biggest mortgage fraud ever tried in England and Wales, involving over 1,000 mortgages. It is the biggest fraud ever to have been investigated by North Wales Police. 

This case has been widely reported by local and national media including the Financial Times, BBC News, ITV, the Daily Mail, the Daily Express.

 

Operation Hippolamp East [2012-2014] Ben recently represented a defendant in an Operation involving the production of Counterfeit Golden Virginia tobacco on an industrial scale in which £140 million pounds worth of Excise was evaded. He appeared for a “facilitator” near the top of the chain of command, who was sentenced to two years and two  months imprisonment following a guilty plea.

For more information click here.

 

Operation Militia [2013 - 2014] Ben is prosecuting a defendant for the Organised Crime Division of the CPS HQ in Operation Militia. The Defendant is a cyber criminal who has pleaded guilty to Computer Misuse Act offences centring on the deployment of malware known as the Butterfly Bot to infiltrate the computers of thousands of victims.

 

Operation Ernest [2009-2013] £110 million con 'funded lavish lifestyles' - R v Fraser, Liversidge and Liversidge. On 9th January, 2012, three individuals behind the biggest (£110 million) factoring fraud there has ever been in the UK were sentenced. The trial took 6 weeks and was prosecuted by Ben, led by Miranda Moore QC. The fraud was described as being of staggering proportions involving over 900 false invoices and dozens of victims. It caused the collapse of both of the companies involved and put other related companies and one bank department out of business. The fraud involved the drawing down of monies through complex preference share transactions. The defendants received sentences ranging from three years to eight years eight months, with the main fraudster, Max Fraser also being disqualified from being a director for 15 years. The sentencing hearing was reported by BBC News.

The confiscation orders made comprised the largest confiscation orders ever made in a Leicestershire Police case. The orders were widely reported by national and local media including the BBC, The Northern Echo and the Leicester Mercury.

 

 Serious Fraud Office v BH [2012-] Counsel for the SFO in £2.7 billion multi-jurisdictional proceedings bribery and corruption stemming from commodity dealing.  Ben was involved in the successful prosecution of Bruce Hall in this case which led to his pleading guilty to bribery.

  

Regina v Keary [2012] Ben, prosecuting on behalf of the South East Complex Case Unit, successfully secured the conviction of a bank manager for manipulating the profiles of customers to steal money from HSBC over a number of years.

 

Serious Fraud Office v Baird [2011] EWCA Crim 459; [2011] 2 Cr. App. R. (S.) 78; 2011 WL 719506: Counsel for the SFO in an appeal against an 18-month sentence for breach of a restraint order in the context of boiler room fraud. Ben successfully persuaded the court to distinguish between coercive and punitive or deterrent sentences. Those in the latter category will ordinarily not attract sentences in excess of 15 months in the event of a plea. In this case the Court of Appeal ruled that full discount need not be given when the primary reason for imposing the sentence is to promote compliance with the Court’s earlier order.

 

Operation Compost [2009-2010] As Defence Counsel, Ben secured the acquittal of the director of several allegedly fraudulent companies, on all charges following a complex three month trial at Liverpool Crown Court. The investigation commenced in 2006, charges of conspiracy to evade excise duty on diesel fuel and money laundering followed with the case concluding successfully for the Defence in November 2010.

 

Operation German Cars [2009-2010] Leading Counsel for the Crown in multi-jurisdictional car cloning fraud, involving high-end German cars.

 

Chesney’s Ltd v F & C [2009-2010] Counsel for 1st Defendant in alleged High Court Civil fraud by company finance director.

 

Regina v Mount [2008-2010] Leading Counsel for defence in multimillion pound mortgage fraud.