‘Follow the money’; bitcoin makes fraud prosecution more difficult
‘Follow the money’ is a rather clichéd line from the film ‘All The President’s Men’ which charted the scandal that engulfed President Nixon in the 1970s.
But even today, the money trail is very much the first line of investigation in serious fraud cases, and one that is increasingly difficult to follow.
Not so long ago, the ways of committing fraud were somewhat limited and for that reason also somewhat simplistic.
That can no longer be said, as financial markets spanning the world transfer billions of pounds during each hour of trading. Bitcoin and other emerging ‘crypto currencies’ complicate the picture even more.
Swaps, derivatives, forwards, securities, bonds, secondary markets… We could go on and on…
Why does this matter?
It matters to us as lawyers, as a mere understanding of the law is not enough for the successful defence of these complex cases, your lawyers must understand first and foremost the environment in which the crime has been said to have been committed.
Your lawyer must confidently speak ‘your language’
What is shocking, however, is that in a recent high profile case a purported expert witness for the prosecution was so out of his depth that he had to ask advice on basic financial terms.
The Court of Appeal observed:
“It’s not a matter to be downplayed when the Crown in a major prosecution calls a witness who is wholly out of his depth.
We take a very serious view of what in the judgment we will describe as a debacle, whatever the outcome.
We want to know how did it come about that he was instructed when he lacked expertise? We are very concerned as to how he can have been instructed, the due diligence, and how it came to light.
We are troubled by it.”
This particular witness was exposed by what has been described as a ‘devastating cross-examination’ by a defence barrister.
While the appeal courts are there to correct mistakes, it does not mean that every trial error will result in acquittal.
It is therefore vital that things are right the first time.
This requires a defence team who truly understand the business of international finance, who can unravel the complexities of your case, and can work as a team with top advocates capable of ‘devastating cross-examination’.
John Howey, Senior Solicitor