Beware Financial Investigators And Curse Of The Criminal Lifestyle Threat

Criminal confiscation proceedings are an area of expertise that Mark Jenner and Co Limited deals with since long before the introduction of the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002.  Shortly after it’s implementation in 2003 Mark Jenner began presenting educational lectures to Law and Accountancy firms around the country. These were on the subject of the new and more onerous obligations that had been placed on the regulated professional sector.

The Crown’s Army Of Financial Investigators

At this time the authorities began training an army of Financial Investigators to investigate a criminal’s finances after conviction. This allowed them to establish the amount to recover as the benefit of a crime or a criminal lifestyle. The financial investigators came from police forces, tax offices and other places. Many of the candidates were not accountants but were expected to analyse financial statements and bank accounts after a few weeks training. It is sufficient to say that the majority of these investigators lacked true financial expertise. However, they were aided by the provisions within the 2002 Act that allowed assumptions to be made regarding a convicted criminal’s lifestyle. This meant that any income received or assets held by a convicted criminal could be deemed to be the proceeds of crime. Almost overnight everything became a target for recovery.

The upshot was that investigators would lump everything they could into the Section 16 Statement of Information and pass the responsibility of proving any legitimate provenance to the Defendant. This meant that a criminal defence forensic accountant was usually appointed to rebut the assumptions.

We have responded to hundreds of Section 16 Statements over recent years, correcting mistakes such as double counting and inappropriate inclusion of mortgaged equity that could, for example, turn a £10,000 benefit into £100,000. Or a £200,000 benefit into £2 million!

Not All Section 16 Statements Are Equal

Of course many financial investigators produce sensible and balanced S16 Statements. They focus on material assets and only use the available assumptions when it is reasonable to do so. However, the incidence of inappropriate benefit calculations means that they should always be checked by a competent forensic accountant.

As independent expert forensic chartered accountants, Mark Jenner and Co Limited works for criminal defence solicitors on behalf of criminal defendants. They also work for the regulatory authorities including Police forces and the Criminal Prosecution Service. Indeed, Mark Jenner also undertakes forensic investigations on behalf of the Crown in order that the Financial Investigator can incorporate the figures within his or her S16 Statement.

Instructing A Forensic Accountant Specialising In Fraud

Most instructions Mark Jenner and Co Limited accepts begin with a fixed quote. This is submitted for approval by the Legal Aid Authority or the respective police force or CPS. Normally the case summary or S16 Statement and court bundle are inspected in order that an accurate appraisal of the amount of work needed can be made. Often a barrister appointed to the case will provide specific written advice as to what he would like to understand about the financial aspects of the case. Other times the instructing parties are seeking advice from the forensic accountant about the strengths and weaknesses of the case. If a forensic accountant is not appointed to a complex fraud or case that otherwise revolves around copious financial documents, the matter is open to incorrect interpretations and obfuscation of the pertinent facts!

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