What Is NATIS and What Powers Does it Have?

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What Is NATIS and What Powers Does it Have?

The National Investigation Service (NATIS) is a government agency set up by Thurrock Council to investigate financial crimes involving public funds. Although under the jurisdiction of a local council, NATIS employs staff throughout the UK, and works alongside government and law enforcement agencies to fulfil its remit.

While NATIS is not a well-known organisation and has a limited online presence, the large role it plays in investigating and prosecuting Bounce Back Loan fraud should not be overlooked. In fact, according to announcements by NATIS, it successfully froze and forfeited £500,000 in October 2023, and secured a single cash forfeiture order for £199,900 in November of the same year. Earlier that year, it uncovered an alleged Bounce Back Loan fraud scheme worth £3.7 million.

NATIS is playing a larger role than ever in investigating these cases, and therefore individuals and businesses should remain aware of its existence. If you are subject to an investigation by NATIS, you should contact a specialist solicitor urgently. Here, the criminal defence experts at JMW explain the role of NATIS and offer advice on how individuals and organisations can protect themselves.

What is NATIS’ role?

NATIS works in partnership with the government and law enforcement agencies to investigate serious crimes where public authorities or the funds they manage have been targeted. We are aware it has utilised Account Freezing Orders (AFOs) and Restraint Orders to control assets and has other powers at its disposal, as it works alongside law enforcement agencies, including the Insolvency Service and Department for Business and Trade.

Where the most serious fraud is suspected, this will be investigated by NATIS and a prosecution will be considered. Already this has led to considerable arrests in relation to Bounce Back Loan Scheme fraud and separately, the National Crime Agency has made various arrests for fraud offences. The government has invested considerably to combat and prosecute this type of fraud and can take further ancillary steps, including director disqualification, bankruptcy and winding up petitions, to tackle the problem.

What is Bounce Back Loan fraud? 

Bounce Back Loan fraud refers to the misuse or fraudulent acquisition of funds from the UK government’s Bounce Back Loan Scheme, which was introduced in May 2020 to help small and medium-sized businesses affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. The scheme provided loans of up to £50,000 that were 100% guaranteed by the government. 

Fraud involving Bounce Back Loans may include: 

  • Applicants providing false or misleading information to obtain a loan. This could involve inflating the turnover figures of a business to receive a larger loan than it is entitled to or claiming to have a business that does not exist.
  • Misusing the loan funds for purposes other than those intended by the scheme. Bounce Back Loans were meant to support businesses in covering their operating costs, such as rent, salaries, and utilities, but some recipients used the funds for personal expenses or other unauthorised purposes.
  • Applying for multiple loans from different banks using the same business details or different businesses, and thereby receiving more money than was allowed under the scheme.
  • Setting up fake companies solely to apply for loans, with no intention of running a legitimate business.
  • Using stolen identities to apply for loans and leaving victims responsible for the debt.

NATIS is now playing a fundamental role in these investigations at a national level. If you or your business received a Bounce Back Loan at any time during the pandemic, you may be subject to an investigation. Those found guilty of fraud can face severe penalties, including imprisonment and confiscation proceedings.

What should businesses do if they are under investigation by NATIS?

If you or your business is under investigation for potential Bounce Back Loan fraud, you should act quickly to protect yourself and immediately consult with a solicitor specialising in financial fraud. The team at JMW can provide advice, assistance and representation on how to handle the investigation and protect you and your business’ interests. 

Subject to legal advice, you may want to fully cooperate with investigating authorities, whether they are the police, NATIS, HMRC, or any other regulatory body. For example, providing all requested documents and information promptly may result in the investigation quickly coming to an end. Working with a solicitor can help you to collate evidence for your case, and make sure you are treated fairly during the investigation process. Your rights must be upheld at all times, and authorities must collect evidence in accordance with the law.

You may want to consider an internal audit of your financial records to ensure that the loan funds were used appropriately and in line with the scheme's requirements. Additionally, keep detailed records of all communications and actions taken, including notes from meetings with legal advisors, copies of documents provided to authorities, and any other relevant interactions.

Your solicitor will review all relevant documentation relating to the Bounce Back Loan application and how you used the funds. This includes bank statements, business financial records, communications regarding the claim, and any other pertinent documents. This can help us to prepare your case and identify further lines of enquiry.

NATIS may be a new authority investigating fraud, but its approach and methods are similar to those of existing bodies. As such, the experienced team at JMW can help you at all stages of an investigation, or any court proceedings that follow. Call our business crime experts today on 0345 872 6666 or use our online enquiry form to request a call back at your convenience.

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