During a bank fraud investigation, there will first be an internal investigation. This may then be handed to the police or another investigatory body, such as the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) or the Serious Fraud Office (SFO). This investigation can continue for many years before the case ever reaches a courtroom.
Bank fraud – fraud solicitors London
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Step one: internal investigation
No two bank fraud investigations are the same. Generally speaking, the process will begin with an internal investigation by the bank or financial institution. This is the first logical step after an incident of fraud has been identified. The bank will want to know what happened, why it happened and who was involved. If a customer has been affected, he or she will likely be reimbursed for their losses.
Step two: Action Fraud UK
The bank or financial institution may then involve the authorities. UK businesses, charities and organisations can report fraud and cyber-crime to Action Fraud UK. If the alleged fraud meets certain criteria, the fraud report will be allocated to the police force or to another investigatory body, such as the Serious Fraud Office or the Financial Conduct Authority. Typically, this only happens if there are:
- Multiple victims
- Significant losses, whether to individuals, banks or the State
- Links to organised criminal groups
- Links to regulated professionals, such as lawyers and accountants
Step three: formal investigation
The police or investigatory body will then begin a formal investigation into the banking fraud. If you are linked to the offence, you may be invited for questioning or asked to participate in regulatory proceedings. Or, you may be interviewed under caution. Either way, do not say anything until you have spoken to a specialist fraud solicitor. You are entitled to legal representation.
Even if the authorities are simply inviting you for a ‘chat’, you must remember that anything you say can be used as evidence. Make no mistake: even a seemingly informal discussion is, in fact, an interview. You must be accompanied by a fraud solicitor who can advise what questions to answer, and how to answer them. You have the right to remain silent if you want to, although in certain circumstances it can be beneficial to cooperate.
Step four: search and seizure
If they think it will aid their investigation, the police (or other authority) can request a search warrant from a judge or magistrate. If approved, they can search your home and/or place of work. Your personal items can also be seized as evidence, including your laptop, mobile phone and other electronic devices. The police can keep these items for as long as they need them.
Step five: continuing investigation
Bank fraud investigations are usually very complex and can take months or even years. During this time, the investigation continues to be pending. You may be invited for questioning on more than one occasion. Be sure to take a fraud solicitor with you every time. You may then be released under investigation, meaning you have not been arrested, but you remain a suspect in the case.
Being released under investigation (RUI) is very stressful because there are no time limits in place. The police (or other authority) can keep you ‘RUI’ for as long as they see fit. This means the bank investigation will be hanging over you, causing a significant disruption to your life. This differs to pre-charge bail, where the police must arrest you within 28 days (aside from exceptional circumstances). RUI police meaning.
Step six: criminal proceedings
If the police or other investigatory authority believes that there is sufficient evidence to convict you, then your case will be handed to the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS). Fraud is considered a serious offence, so there will be a hearing at the Magistrates’ Court, after which your case will be referred to the Crown Court. If you plead not guilty, there will be a trial. If you plead guilty, there will only be a sentencing hearing.
If you have not already got legal representation, then now is the time to do so. At Ashmans, our fraud solicitors can manage every aspect of your case, working on your defence to prove your innocence. Fraud cases are complicated and we will instruct various experts to establish your defence, including an experienced defence barrister who will argue your case in court.
Step seven: confiscation proceedings
If you are found guilty under the Fraud Act 2006, you may subsequently be subject to confiscation proceedings under the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 (POCA). This is when the authorities ask the court to confiscate your assets, on the basis that they were obtained using illegitimate means. If the court agrees that certain assets were purchased using the proceeds of banking fraud, they will be seized. What are POCA proceedings?
Are you under investigation for bank fraud?
Bank fraud takes many forms. Simply put, it is the use of illegal means to gain funds, property or assets belonging to a bank, or to its customers. Perpetrators may be external to the organisation. They may do things such as clone cards, steal an individual’s banking information or use counterfeit cheques. Alternatively, the perpetrators may come from within the organisation. This is exactly what happened with the widely publicised LIBOR scandal, during which London-based bankers colluded to manipulate the London Interbank Offered Rate. This benefitted their derivative traders.
Whatever the nature of the allegations, if you have been linked to bank fraud, you must speak to a solicitor straight away. You need legal representation throughout the investigation process, something which can take months, if not years, to complete. A solicitor can guide you throughout the investigation, taking action to minimise the consequences to you and your reputation.
Have you been accused of bank fraud? Do not delay in seeking expert legal advice. At Ashmans Solicitors, we have an experienced team of fraud solicitors who are ready and willing to help you.
Call us on 0333 009 6275. We are available to take your call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.