Now that we’re all embedded into a new decade, January has finally come to an end and spring is hopefully just around the corner.
I thought it would be interesting to take a look back, and take stock if you like, of the top 10 frauds that occurred between 2010-2019, to see if we’ve learnt anything from them.
In Part 1 of this feature we’ll look at the top five frauds. Next week we’ll look at the other five propping up the top 10.
‘Mr Big’ on the run
After facing a three year prison sentence for money laundering for drug dealers, in 2012, Maythen Al-Ansari, a key member of one of London’s biggest organised crime gangs, was once again under the spotlight. This time for multi-million pound mortgage fraud.
‘Mr Big’ as he was affectionately known in his criminal circle, was ordered to hand over his passport whilst he was on bail. However, an oversight allowed him to contact the Home Office and gain a new passport. This enabled Mr Big to flee to Syria, leaving millions of pounds unaccounted for.
How did this blunder occur I hear you ask? One simple word. Communication.
There was a lack of communication and coordination between the various bodies that were dealing with Mr Big’s case.
To avoid similar blunders in the future, these bodies must work closer together and communicate effectively, to ensure that confiscated identity documents can’t be reapplied for when a person is released on bail.
Mr Al-Ansari gave himself up after returning to London Heathrow in 2016.
The largest ever visa fraud in the UK
In 2019, a gang of fraudsters who set up bogus companies to help 900 illegal migrants stay in the country were spared jail.
The group had 53 businesses including ‘Immigration4u’ and ‘Mo’s Spice Inn’, in which they laundered millions of pounds through making temporary transfers into client’s bank accounts.
The gang created fake payslips and provided false information on the applicants for general and entrepreneur visas between 2008-2013.
They charged extortionate fees for pulling together hundreds of false immigration applications that would have cost the taxpayer millions of pounds, had they not been caught.
Police raids on the defendants’ homes and businesses provided the Crown Prosecution Service with enough information to prosecute.
For those looking to migrate to the UK, it’s essential to go through the official channels to prevent the possibility of being defrauded.
£102.2 million fine for Standard Chartered Bank
In April 2019, The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) handed out a £102,163,200 fine – its second largest fine in the FCA’s history – for anti-money laundering breaches.
During the FCA’s investigation, it was discovered that Standard Chartered failed to establish and maintain risk-sensitive policies and procedures and failed to ensure its UAE branches applied UK equivalent AML and counter-terrorist financing controls.
The FCA found that Standard Chartered had serious and prolonged shortcomings in their approach towards identifying and rectifying money laundering risks. An example of these failings included opening an account with three million UAE Dirham (£500,000) deposited from cash in a suitcase without verifying the funds.
Businesses across all sectors, although the financial sector is considered the most prevalent, must take an active approach in identifying potential money laundering risks and report suspicious transactions to the regulator to avoid breaching AML regulations and guidelines.
It’s imperative that organisations invest time and money to ensure their money laundering processes are well embedded into their business. This will save you money in the long run and ensure you remain compliant.
Maria Michaela – The UK’s most prolific female fraudster
Maria Michaela, dubbed the UK’s “most prolific female fraudsters”, was jailed for nine years in 2012 after conning banks out of £13m.
Ms Michaela created false identities and submitted offers on houses over the market value, then in turn defaulted on the mortgage.
Her scam was so successful she repeated it numerous times, and only became unstuck when she was tracked back to a mortgage broker she had been working at in Blackheath.
The property industry are aware that offers coming in well over the asking price on properties may smack of the old adage “it’s too good to be true”. Of course, many strong offers will be genuine, but mortgage brokers should critically analyse these to consider whether there may be something fraudulent going on.
Conducting due diligence shouldn’t stop just because the offer seems out of this world. In fact, this should set alarm bells ringing and encourage people to conduct further checks.
Stephen Burton – Money Launderer
In 2019, Stephen Burton from Tunbridge Wells was sent to prison for more than three years and ordered to return more than £900,000.
The local police force suspected Mr Burton of purchasing expensive items and rare metals to cover up money earned through illegal activities.
When his home was raided by the police they uncovered:
- Gold bars, Krugerrand coins and other items worth a total of £742,544
- Silver coins worth £8,460
- £53,403 in pound sterling
- €14,120 euros
- Five designer watches worth a combined total of £110,000
- Five hundred lottery tickets
- Two passports in Burton’s name but with different dates and countries of birth
- Several other false identity documents
The take down of Stephen Burton demonstrates that detectives ‘follow the money’ as purchasing expensive metals and items as an average citizen can be a clear indication of fraudulent activity.