Fraud in the time of COVID-19
Law enforcement agencies have had to react extremely quickly to changing circumstances caused by COVID-19. The CMA launched a COVID-19 task force to monitor developments, identify harmful sales and pricing practices to take enforcement action if necessary."
The Crown Prosecution Service said in an interim charging protocol that those investigation COVID-19 related cases, such as fraud, can seek an immediate charging decision. In regards to this, Caroline stated:
This prioritisation is in stark contrast to the CPS approach to other 'less serious cases'. In less serious cases, it is right that we consider all options available when weighing up the right course of action... offences relating to COVID-19 will remain an immediate priority. Trial fixtures will undoubtedly be pushed back but there has been the suggestion of a 'virtual specialist fraud court' which would be set up to manage cases given the expected backlogs when many Crown Court trials resume."
Finally, despite the restrictions imposed by lockdown, the FCA and the SFO are well adapted for remote working and attorneys expect both agencies to be focused on documentary evidence during any hiatus. Caroline stated in response:
Investigations by these authorities are by their nature likely to be document based and sizable. There will be much that investigators can work on remotely, including liaising with defence practitioners."
For further information on the issues raised in this blog post, please contact a member of our criminal team.
Caroline Day is a Partner in our Criminal Litigation team. Caroline specialises in complex fraud and financial crime. She acts in cases of serious fraud, money laundering, corruption and cartels and has advised individuals and companies subject of investigations and prosecutions by various agencies including the Serious Fraud Office (SFO), the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) and the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) (formerly the OFT).
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