Narita Bahra QC

Narita Bahra QC

"She has a unique style in front of juries, who like her approach." "A very polished operator; tenacious and fearless."

Legal 500 2020
Year of call: 1997 QC: 2019
For enquiries please call: 020 7353 5324 or email vcard cv linkedin save

Business Crime & Financial Services

Narita has extensive experience in complex fraud and money laundering cases. She is noted for handling fraud cases with an international dimension, particularly in South East Asia. Narita excels at distilling and explaining complex factual matrices to both clients and juries in a concise and clear manner.

Narita’s areas of expertise include anti-competitive conduct (cartels, market abuse, insider dealing); civil/commercial fraud; fraudulent trading; mortgage fraud; money laundering; revenue fraud; VAT/MTIC fraud.

Narita is recognised as having vast and practical knowledge of the increasing prosecutions involving the Hawala banking system (an alternative unregulated remittance system running in parallel with the established regulated banking system). She is currently instructed as Queen’s Counsel in a case which raises Hawala as a defence (2019). Narita also has an excellent knowledge of ancillary proceedings, such as criminal confiscation, asset forfeiture and restraint law.

Increasingly instructed in quasi-criminal and regulatory proceedings, she represents  professionals such as accountants, financial advisers and solicitors, as well as senior executives facing charges relating to dishonesty or corruption in business practices.

Cases

R v S (May 2019) Leading as QC

This was a prosecution brought against eight defendants for an alleged fraud involving the sale of carbon credits for the purposes of investment. The defendants asserted that they believed that there was a viable market for carbon credits and that they believed that the value of the credits would rise.

The trial collapsed as a result of the prosecution’s reliance on a witness called Andrew Ager. The prosecution had asserted that Mr. Ager was an expert in the carbon credits market and had relied upon him to secure convictions in over 20 trials. Mr. Ager had repeatedly told juries that, amongst other things, that there was no secondary market in the sale of VER carbon credits.

In this case, Narita identified and instructed Dr. Marius Cristian Frunza as an expert for the defence. Dr. Frunza holds a PhD from Sorbonne University and lectures extensively in respect of the carbon credit markets. Mr. Ager improperly attempted to dissuade Dr. Frunza from giving evidence. This resulted in the Narita applying to cross-examine Mr. Ager in a voir dire before he was permitted to give evidence to the jury.

During the course of that cross-examination, the following evidence was elicited:

  • Ager had no academic qualifications whatsoever. He had not obtained a degree. When asked if he had any A-Levels, he replied that he had sat 3, but couldn’t remember if he had passed.
  • Despite asserting that he kept abreast of the carbon credits market, he admitted that he had not read any books on the subject even though he accepted that Dr. Frunza’s books were widely available. He did, however, tell the court that he had once seen a documentary about credit credits.
  • He admitted that a number of the assertions he had made to Dr. Frunza, during a joint experts meeting, were either wholly untrue or substantially inaccurate.
  • He admitted that he did not consider it his duty to bring facts to the court’s attention which might assist the defence.
  • He admitted that he had kept no record whatsoever of the material that he had been provided with by the police and no notes of his workings.
  • He admitted that he had lost some of the sensitive material he had been provided with by the police as he kept it in a cupboard under the stairs and the material had been damaged by a “leak”. He did, however, assure the court that he now had better storage facilities as he kept confidential material in a “locked box on his balcony”.

Prior to Mr. Ager giving evidence, Narita had made targeted disclosure requests which revealed that the officers in the case had taken no notes of their meetings with Mr. Ager and no record of the material that they had provided to him. In light of Mr. Ager’s admissions, it was plain that his evidence was incapable of any independent review, quite apart from his evident unsuitability as an expert witness. At the conclusion of the voir dire the prosecution confirmed that they abandoned Mr. Ager and that he had been removed from the National Crime Agency’s list of approved experts. The trial judge commented that Mr. Ager should never be permitted to give expert evidence again.

Narita then sought a voir dire of the officers in the case and lawyers from the CPS in order to establish the extent of the disclosure failures. This resulted in the prosecution disclosing that the CPS and the police had been in possession of material that was potentially damaging to another prosecution expert. That evidence did not appear on any prosecution disclosure schedule and was only revealed to the defence for the first time, minutes before the prosecution offered no evidence and abandoned the case.

The case was reported extensively by the national media The Times | The Telegraph | The BBC | Daily Mail | City AM The Guardian

R v K (December 2018) Leading

Instructed to defend an employee of Royal Mail Revenue Protection Department who was alleged to have assisted a Company to defraud the Royal Mail of approximately £33 million pounds of revenue fraud and of attempting to pervert the course of justice.

The prosecution relied in the main upon a witness, the owner and controlling mind of the Company which had perpetrated the fraud, who gave Queen’s Evidence to seek to secure convictions against four Royal Mail employees.

In order to successfully defend in this private prosecution Narita deployed her knowledge, at the outset, of what features of a private prosecution the client should challenge,

  • Sufficiency of evidence
  • Public Interest
  • Motives of the Private Prosecutor
  • Conduct of the Private Prosecutor
  • Disclosure Process

The Crown sought to rely on a combination of CCTV footage, cell site, digital media and telephone evidence to secure a conviction against the client.

At trial, at the close of the prosecution case, Narita succeeded in persuading the Judge that there was no case to answer against the client on the charges indicted. The trial for the co-defendants continued.

R v P (June 2018) Leading 2 Juniors

Narita was instructed to defend a complex and unusual joint HMRC and Police investigation in which it was alleged that tax evasion emanated from mobile phone theft through companies. This involved consideration of a vast amount of evidence and complex issues of taxation law as well as the Crown Court’s jurisdiction to interfere with and decide matters that ordinarily fall solely to be determined by the First-tier Tribunal (Tax Chamber).

Narita was successful in challenging the prosecution’s dogged approach which emanated from growing pressure to probe that the HMRC and Police had workable strategies in place to stamp out evasion.

The Prosecution alleged the client had masterminded fraud, theft and tax evasion by taking advantage of lacuna in the Value Added Tax Act 1994.

Narita’s team worked together to assimiliate and consolidate complex taxation issues of relevance to the client’s defence so that they could be followed by a lay jury.

R v S (May 2018) 

The client was a businessman, charged alongside ten co-defendants with being knowingly involved in a conspiracy to evade excise duty on diesel fuel on a large national scale. The HMRC investigation of these allegations spanned over four years. Laundering involved red diesel, meant for use by agricultural and other off-road vehicles.

The prosecution alleged that red diesel was stolen in huge quantities and then a variety of methods were deployed to launder, eradicate the red dye and other chemical markers. The removal of the colour results in it looking to the untrained eye as regular diesel. It was alleged that it was sold on businesses who were willing to turn a blind eye. Plants were uncovered in mainland Britain and officials had intercepted illegal shipments.

The case collapsed due to disclosure failings.

Extensive national media attention. Interviewed by Radio 4 & BBC News.

R v M (August 2017) Leading

Prosecution alleged client was involved in laundering monies for the criminal underworld. Narita’s written advocacy succeeded in maneuvering the prosecution into a position where they decided to offer no evidence on the main conspiracy to money launder offence, class A drug offences and a substantive money laundering allegation at the outset of the case. This enabled the defence to severe the client and her husband from the four co-defendants and thereby removing any links or associations with drugs. Evidence of class B drugs found at co-defendant’s premises were also successfully argued to be inadmissible.

R v M (June 2017)

The prosecution alleged the client was one of three leaders in this serious organised eight handed conspiracy. The organisation unwittingly used Easyworld International Money Exchange Bureaus to launder in excess of £78 million. The police uncovered a factory based in London at which the funds were being laundered.

The case involved looking carefully at the stringent regulation of money exchange bureaus imposed by the Money Laundering Regulations. The HMRC made it clear that the onus now fell upon businesses at risk to implement anti-money laundering measures based on a ‘risk-based’ approach and assessment.

Narita successfully negotiated with the Crown to limit the client’s accepted involvement to a figure below £1.5 million.

R v Z (May 2017)

This cybercrime investigation into corruption across the banking industry resulted in the arrest of the client who was a Barclay’s Banker in the Cyber Fraud operation Kadenza. The Crown alleged the client had opened 144 fraudulent accounts enabling in excess of three million pounds to be laundered, as well as passing on sensitive details to those committing the Cyber Fraud (£113 million) in operation Kadenza.

Lengthy written and oral advocacy resulted in the prosecution offering no evidence on the two substantive conspiracies. The Court held it was not persuaded that the Prosecution could properly substantiate the tenuous link between the co-conspirators and the client.

The client pleaded guilty to one count of money laundering limiting his involvement to £1.5 million pounds. No confiscation proceedings were pursued.

National Press Coverage.

R v A (April 2017) Leading

Instructed to represent a Director in a European Union Match Funding Conspiracy to Defraud in excess of a million pounds. The client, along with her brother and his former Director, were accused of having conspired to commit fraud against the Home Office by preparing paperwork to demonstrate implementation of learning activities for third country nationals to assist in integrating them into the community for which the Home Office would provide grants to facilitate those activities. The client denied having conspired to commit fraud against the Home Office.

The case was significant and politically sensitive, in light of the fact that at the time that the Prosecution alleged the offences occurred, Theresa May was the Home Secretary which oversaw the financial aid that was provided. Client was the only defendant acquitted.

National Press Coverage.

R v K (December 2016)

Represented the first defendant in an alleged joint enterprise to flood the UK with millions of illegal cigarettes and evasion of duty and VAT in excess of one million pounds. The Crown alleged client played a leading role in the logistics and distribution of the UK arm of the criminal operation. It was alleged that the smuggled cigarettes emanated from Russia and Eastern Europe, travelling via Polish transportation. Unusually the HMRC were able to assert that this was an exceptional case as they had arrested the main players in this International Crime Ring. HMRC investigators uncovered the smuggling ring after working closely with UK Border Force and the National Crime Agency. Client was the only defendant alleged to have operated in a leading role who was acquitted post trial.

R v S (September 2016)

Client was a Solicitor arrested as part of an international money laundering ring who made in excess of 113 million pounds, conducting one of Britain’s largest cyber scams cold-calling bank customers. 47 million pounds was recovered. The outstanding 66 million pounds was believed to have been laundered from the UK to Dubai and Pakistan. Arrests resulted after the police mounted the most sophisticated cyber-surveillance operation to date. 750 accountants and solicitors were targeted by the ring.

Client was the only defendant to receive a suspended sentence.

International and National Press Coverage.

R v G (June 2016)

Client acquitted of Money Laundering in excess of £500 000. Unusually, Narita was instructed three years post charge and after four previous defence teams had fail to grasp the complex issues in the case. Deploying my understanding of Islamic Banking (Sharia compliant finance) and instructing a Forensic Accountant successfully enabled the jury to understand and identify gaps in the complex prosecution case.

R v B (April 2016) Leading

Client was the Personal Assistant to Barbara Broccoli (owner of James Bond empire) and employee of EON Enterprises Limited. Client was acquitted of three counts of fraud and three counts of theft. Narita identified significant prosecution disclosure failings which damaged the integrity of the three-year investigation. Prosecution offered no evidence on day one of the trial.

National press coverage.

R v S (September 2015) Leading

Secured an acquittal for client in the “Tesco Cash for Crash” Insurance fraud conspiracy. Client was one of twenty-one defendants facing trial. The Prosecution alleged that the defendants had targeted Tesco and car insurance firms by mounting faked or bogus accidents resulting in fraudulent claims. They further alleged that the defendants exaggerated their injuries in order to claim personal Injury compensation and other costs. Narita’s forensic detailed cross-examination of the prosecution medical experts was damning for the Crown’s case. All defendants were acquitted.

R v Shah (2015) Leading

Defended in an eight-handed conspiracy to commit multi million pound Home Office visa fraud. The fraud emanated from hiding assets via money loops to misuse the visa application system. The case involved cross-examination of forensic accountants. Narita prevented the Crown from being permitted to allow additional counts at the outset of the trial. Successfully defended the Crown’s application to voluntary bill additional charges in the High Court. This case involved a series of public interest immunity applications.

National Press Coverage.

R v C (2015) Leading

Client was the first defendant in a nineteen-handed conspiracy to commit fraud. The case related to abusing consumer protection offered by banks and credit card companies.  The Crown alleged the client was the orchestrator and puppeteer of the conspiracy. Undertook strategic and tactical decisions regarding the defence and presentation of the case. Cross-examination of forensic accountants and expert witnesses was necessary.

R v S (2015)

Instructed in what was described by the Serious Organised Crime Agency as, “The largest importation of heroin into the United Kingdom from the Indian subcontinent, Pakistan and Afghanistan”. The client was described as “an international drug smuggler of the highest order”. The street value of the drugs was in excess of 103.2 million pounds and money-laundering allegations against the client were valued at 12 million pounds. A Hawala banking defence was advanced at trial which explained the client’s financial affairs represented legitimate financial transactions. Narita worked very closely with the expert witnesses who conceded they were dealing with novel issues of banking law.

R v S (2015)

This ten defendant case involved a conspiracy to defraud the Oxfordshire Police and insurance companies. The Prosecution unusually offered no evidence against the client at the conclusion of her evidence in chief. The judge ruled that “the trial for all other co-defendants would continue. This unusual outcome was solely as a result of Miss Bahra’s dogged and skillful approach to disclosure”.

R v Poole (2015)

Client was the finance director of the London Philharmonic Orchestra charged with fraud in excess of 2.3 million pounds.

National Press Coverage.

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