News Business Crime & Financial Services 16th May 2019

Gavin Irwin and Fiona Robertson Conclude Six Month, Cross-Border, Fraud and Money Laundering Trial

Gavin Irwin and Fiona Robertson represented Andrew Chukwu in a six-month trial for conspiracy to defraud and conspiracy to launder the proceeds of crime. Mr Chukwu was alleged to be a leading figure in a series of large scale, sophisticated diversion frauds committed over four years.

Using phishing malware, the gang were able to intercept and infiltrate email conversations containing financial information and then to divert payments into hundreds of different ‘mule’ bank accounts. Global companies including Etihad airline and Eli Lily pharmaceuticals fell victim to the scam as well as high net worth individuals including Liberal Democrat peer Lord Wrigglesworth.  In excess of £10 million was diverted and laundered through sham companies and bank accounts in the UK, China, Hong Kong and Nigeria.

The fraudulent scheme unraveled following the chance arrest of an associate responsible for selling mule accounts to the OCG. An analysis of his devices led the police to additional conspirators, and then others, through a cascade of digital evidence. Notwithstanding further arrests and the remand of the principal into custody, the fraud continued to operate through the use of small, easily concealed mobile phones from prison.

The case has attracted widespread media coverage and the conduct of the OCG was one of the drivers for the ‘confirmation of payee’ changes to inter-bank payment mechanisms. The Met Police have posted this advice on their website:

“We would advise anyone conducting financial business by email to verify the bank account they are sending their money to, by contacting the intended recipient and taking precautions to ensure the money is going to the right place.”

Eleven defendants pleaded guilty or were convicted after trial and sentences ranged from a conditional discharge to eleven years’ imprisonment. Complex confiscation proceedings continue.

Gavin and Fiona were instructed by Hannah Sampson of Murrays Partnership.

To read about the case in the national press, please follow the below links.

The Mirror | The Times | Met Police

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