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Lexis+ AI

Insolvency Service sees 42% drop in prosecutions

Insolvency Service sees 42% drop in prosecutions


The number of criminal prosecutions against directors following Insolvency Service investigations has seen a notable decline of 42% within a year

The battle against fraud stemming from COVID-related support programs faces a setback as Mazars, the international audit, tax, and advisory firm, reveals a 42% drop in criminal prosecutions of directors investigated by the Insolvency Service. Despite a surge in fraud during the pandemic, with significant sums misappropriated from schemes such as the Covid-19 Bounce Back Loan Scheme (BBLS) and the furlough scheme, the decline in prosecutions is raising concerns. Mazars proposes a unique solution involving private sector Insolvency Practitioners to combat COVID loan fraud effectively.

Prosecution Plunge: In the fiscal year 2022/23, the number of criminal prosecutions following Insolvency Service investigations dwindled from 134 to 72, despite the prevalence of fraud committed against COVID support programs. The pandemic saw widespread misuse of schemes like BBLS and the furlough scheme, raising questions about the efficacy of current prosecution efforts.

Labour's Proposal for a 'Covid Corruption Commissioner': Shadow Chancellor Rachel Reeves has recently announced Labour's commitment to intensify the pursuit of COVID fraud through the establishment of a 'Covid Corruption Commissioner.' The objective is to recoup taxpayers' money lost to fraud and flawed contracts, responding to HMRC's estimate that £5 billion has been lost through COVID support schemes due to fraud and error.

Recovery Challenges and Limited Prosecutions: The recovery of defrauded money and the prosecution of directors responsible for these frauds have been significantly low. For instance, of the estimated £1.1 billion lost through fraud in COVID grants issued to businesses, only £11.4 million has been recovered. The urgency to address this issue grows as time passes, making it increasingly difficult to trace and recoup funds.

Michael Pallott, Partner at Mazars specializing in pursuing fraud in insolvencies, suggests an innovative approach to address the challenges of COVID loan fraud. He proposes that the Insolvency Service should consider engaging private sector Insolvency Practitioners on a "no win, no fee" basis. This approach would utilize external expertise, enhance recovery efforts, and potentially lead to increased prosecutions of fraudulent company directors.

 Insolvency practitioners working on fraud investigations often operate on a "no win, no fee" basis. This means that their fees would only be charged if they successfully recover wrongfully claimed COVID support, alleviating the financial burden on taxpayers. The collaborative effort between the Insolvency Service and external insolvency practitioners could expedite investigations and increase the chances of fund recovery.

 As the clock ticks on the pursuit of directors involved in COVID loan fraud, Mazars emphasizes the need for a swift and effective strategy. The proposal to enlist the support of private sector Insolvency Practitioners on a performance-based fee structure offers a promising avenue to tackle fraud head-on, ensuring a more targeted and impactful approach to addressing the challenges posed by pandemic-related financial misconduct. The collaboration between public and private sectors aligns with the common goal of returning funds to creditors and holding fraudulent actors accountable.

Lexis+ AI