In this article I will look at the Investigation stage of financial crime cases such as fraud, money laundering, tax evasion, and VAT fraud. It will be from the point of view of the suspect. However, the comments made particularly apply to complex investigations where large sums are involved. I will look at the steps that Police, Tax Investigators, Fraud investigators and other regulatory authorities take before they form a decision to prosecute and how experienced solicitors can use this stage to your very best advantage. It is a crucial period in any investigation. With the right specialist advice, depending on your case, it is possible, in some cases, to avoid being charged at all. Even if you are charged we can do a lot to improve the chances of acquittal.
Information is the key.
Information is the key to all investigations. It will start the process with perhaps an anonymous tip off, an irregularity in accounts, a phone call or letter. Prosecutors have limited resources and have to pick and choose the cases they investigate. Even when an investigation has started it is sometimes abandoned because of insuperable difficulties in obtaining evidence or the extent and complexity of the evidence required. Information provided by you to your lawyers can make a very real difference to outcome.
Initially evidence will be collected usually without the knowledge of the person suspected of an offence. One piece of evidence leads to another; the investigators maxim is “follow the evidence”. The first the suspect may know is that they are invited for interview or in some cases arrested. This usually happens when the investigators expect to obtain extra evidence by a search of a suspect’s home or seizure of records and mobile telephones.
How can I improve my position?
There is an opportunity at this stage to substantially improve a proposed defendants position. You should get advice and act on it before any response is made to police questions. So, as soon as you believe that you are under investigation the first port of call must be legal advice. At this stage you will not have any clear idea about what the investigator knows or, most importantly the extent of that knowledge. Even when first arrested it can be possible, with help from your solicitor, to defer the business end of any interview until a later date giving you time to take advice and prepare your arguments.
What information can you get from the investigators?
Your specialist solicitor can obtain information from the investigators that will almost certainly not be available to you. This is because your solicitor is entitled to obtain disclosure from the investigating officer to properly advise you how to proceed.
This information can be used to draft representations to the investigator as to why there is no prospect of their achieving a conviction or to point out serious, irreparable weaknesses in their case. It can be used to better advise you as to your defence and to identify the evidence and information that needs to be collected at an early stage.
What happens at an Interview under caution?
Many suspects think that there are only two options available when interviewed under caution. That is to answer questions or make no comment. There is also of course the worst possible scenario whereby a defendant answers some questions and makes no comment to others. There is a third option and associated with that third option a whole raft of possibilities. That option is the prepared statement.
The power of the prepared statement.
A properly drafted Prepared Statement can win your case. A prepared statement is a written response to the investigators allegations, used in place of answering questions in interview. It is drafted by a specialist criminal solicitor on the instructions of the defendant and signed by the defendant. The statement can be read out at a police interview or in some cases served on the investigator. The prepared statement is the entirety of what a suspect is prepared to say at that stage of an investigation. Because it is evidence in the case it must be carefully drafted to fit the disclosure that has been given and instructions.
What will I say in the prepared statement?
The prepared statement is the core of your defence. You will say as much as is necessary and no more than is necessary. This is important for future conduct of the case. In most cases it will outline sufficient facts to indicate that you are not guilty of the offence alleged. It may be a long comprehensive account, cross referenced to relevant documents, of the defence to the charge. On the other hand, it may be brief and to the point, every case is different.
Should we just wait and see?
No, There can be long delays in these investigations especially for money laundering and fraud. This can present an opportunity to acquire defence evidence and to make representations to the investigators not to prosecute. It is also an opportunity to take the very best specialist advice from expert solicitors or in the most serious matters from senior counsel.
Tactics are paramount at the investigation stage. At Moss & Co our senior solicitors specialise in pre- prosecution representation. We will make every effort to preserve your position and to avoid prosecution if that is at all possible. Our solicitors will recommend senior QCs specialising in these cases. Moss & Co has long standing relationships with the very best criminal silks. We provide a high-quality service second to none. Our fees are very competitive.
If you would like to know more about our senior lawyer service for these complex cases please call Narinder Moss on 020 8986 8336 or use the contact form below.