When the accused fights back
Any investigation in the British courts involves an opportunity for individuals or entities accused of a crime to put their arguments forward. This means that a forensic accountant’s investigation can be used to prove innocence as well as guilt, and key to any investigation is the analysis of evidence.
A current example which demonstrates the importance of this is the case involving Newcastle United FC. The club has now begun a legal challenge over investigations into its financial affairs, arguing that materials that could be used as evidence were wrongly seized.
Tax officials, investigating the financial affairs of several football clubs in the UK and Europe, raided St James’ Park and West Ham United’s ground back in April as part of a probe into suspected tax fraud. They seized business records, banking documentation, computers and mobile phones in the raid and arrested the club’s managing director, Lee Charnley,, along with a number of other senior European football officials.
However, at a recent hearing, the club’s lawyers had argued that the warrants obtained to permit the raid were “excessively wide” and claim there were no grounds to believe the club was engaged in fraud.
The judge agreed “it was arguable” that the challenge to the warrants will succeed, so has continued orders preventing officers from HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) from examining the seized material pending the full hearing.
However, lawyers for HMRC said that, at the time it applied for the warrants, the tax authorities had started to investigate what is described as “systematic abuse of the transfer system” and claim the amount of money involved “runs into millions of pounds”. Without the documentation and materials, however, it will be impossible to prove either way, as a forensic investigation hinges on a detailed examination of such evidence.
Author: Roger Isaacs, 28 July 2017