USING A FORENSIC ACCOUNTANT PAYS DIVIDENDS
USING A FORENSIC ACCOUNTANT CAN PAY DIVIDENDS
So, you committed a crime, you’ve done the time and you think you’ve paid your debt to society. Time to get back to a normal life and rejoin society, or is it?
For many the threat of a Proceeds of Crime Act investigation can extend the misery, stress and pressures on family and home life. The purpose of the order is to deprive an offender of any financial gain received as a result of the crime. The prosecution will have obtained bank and credit card statements, examined the offender’s lifestyle and assume a figure which could be far in excess of any real benefit.
This prosecution’s figure, the s16 statement, can be challenged. The way forward, especially in cases where there are criminal lifestyle assumptions, is through a forensic accountant. A leading expert in the field is Manchester based Lennie Harris. He explained: “I work with clients’ solicitors or independently and we are often better placed than our legal colleagues to undertake detailed examinations of the financial statements, figures, documents relevant to the prosecution’s s16 assumptions.
“My work as a forensic accountant focuses on the investigation of the circumstances of the case and to produce an independent expert report. Sometimes we can help with getting the report funded by criminal legal aid under prior authority arrangements.”
Harris explains that in one case a defendant pleaded guilty to possessing a Class B drug with intent to supply. In reality the benefit from the criminal activity was only £1,510. He said: “I prepared a report in conjunction with the appointed solicitors and barristers to address the issues raised by the prosecution. The prosecution had focused on assumptions that all the cash credits in the defendant’s bank accounts had been derived from his criminal activity.”
Harris reviewed the case papers and the defendant’s s16 and 18 papers, interviewed him and took his instructions. He managed to establish that many of his transactions were properly accounted for and not, as suggested by the prosecution, proceeds of crime. He had worked in the ‘gig’ economy over many years and had taken on a number of ‘cash-in-hand’ jobs.
“Although my client had limited paperwork I verified through HMCR that he had legitimate sources of income and had been receiving working tax credits,” he continued. “Although some of the figures were difficult to quantify as many years had passed, I agreed a value with the court and assisted it with its deliberations to the benefit of my client.”
Consequently Lennie Harris was able to reduce the benefit of £77,000 suggested by the prosecution to £18,000 with a realisable amount of £15,000 from the available assets, the amount he eventually had to pay to satisfy the claim.
Harris concluded: “This kind of exercise isn’t an exact science but I was able to attribute what I believe was a fair value to the information and witness evidence.”
Further information on using forensic accountants is available from Lennie Harris, phone 07469 859 854, or vist www.hcaconsultancy.com