Conspiracy to Defraud
If you or your business are under investigation, have been arrested, invited for a voluntary interview, charged or face proceedings for any allegations relating to fraud, our specialist team at JMW can provide expert advice, assistance and representation.
We have been and are involved in some of the most complex business crime investigations and prosecutions, and are ranked as a top UK fraud firm by the Legal 500, as well as Chambers and Partners.
Cases of this type can be highly complex and can involve many different defendants. We have acted for individuals and businesses throughout the UK and have the skill and know-how to ensure you are best protected against any prosecution brought for these types of offences, with a strong track record of success.
You should contact JMW immediately if you:
- Have received a notice that you are under investigation
- Have received a restraint, production or freezing order
- Have been the subject of a dawn raid
- Have been invited to an interview under caution
- Face a criminal prosecution
Contact our specialist fraud solicitors today to discuss your situation in more detail - we offer a free initial consultation for all cases. Call us on 0345 872 6666 or complete our online enquiry form to request a call back.
How JMW Can Help
When you call us with your defraud conspiracy issue, we will hold an initial consultation to understand your situation and outline how we can help. Our criminal justice solicitors understand the weight of being accused of a serious offence and can guide you through any aspect of making a defence case.
Having been recognised by prestigious legal guides such as The Legal 500 and Chambers & Partners as a top UK law firm, you can be confident that you have the support of award-winning solicitors at your back when working with JMW.
We can help you to arrange your evidence and paperwork, mediate with the other parties involved, and represent you in court should it be required. We are experienced in dispute resolution and you can rely on us to represent your interests.
Types of Conspiracy to Defraud and Conspiracy to Commit Fraud
A ‘conspiracy to defraud’ is a common-law offence, covered by the specific Common Conspiracy to Defraud law. It has no precise definition in statute (a piece of law created by Parliament) but can be used to prosecute cases relating to a whole array of different facts.
To understand what is meant by ‘conspiracy to defraud’, one must consider the case law (i.e. previously determined cases) where the judiciary has defined what it understood Parliament’s intentions to be.
The offence has been defined in case law as:
- Economic loss: an agreement by two or more [persons] to deprive a person of something which is theirs, would be theirs or they are entitled to, [or] an agreement by two or more by dishonesty to injury some proprietary rights of their suffices to constitute the offence
- Non-economic loss: an agreement to deceive a person into acting contrary to the duty they owe to their clients or employers
A ‘conspiracy to commit fraud’ has been defined in statute in the Criminal Law Act 1977 and can be broken down into many parts. Covered by the statutory law, it can be summarised as an agreement between people to commit an offence or offences, and whether that actual offence or offences is carried out is irrelevant.
The unlawful agreement can be alleged by the prosecution in a number of different ways and the type of offences are covered under the Fraud Act 2006. This piece of legislation came into force on 15th January 2007 and not only helped fill a number of gaps but also created additional offences. These offences are known as substantive offences.
The three main offences it created were:
- Fraud by false representation
- Fraud by failing to disclose information
- Fraud by abuse of position
The Fraud Act 2006 also assisted in creating offences for those who may be found in possession of articles for the use in fraud(s) or making/supplying articles for the same use.
In addition, it helped to strengthen historic legislation in the tackling of fraudulent trading offences. The Fraud Act 2006 still applies in respect of sole traders, companies and corporate bodies that are governed by the Companies Act 2006, in particular, section 993 - Offence of Fraudulent Trading.
What Elements are Required to Prove a Conspiracy to Defraud?
To prove a defraud conspiracy, the authorities must be able to prove a number of things:
- Agreement: there must be an agreement between two or more persons. This agreement does not have to be formal, as long as it is provable
- Intent to defraud: the parties must have an intention to defraud another person or group of people
- Dishonesty: the agreement must involve dishonest means, such as misrepresentation, deceit, or false promises
- Potential prejudice: there must be a likelihood that the agreement could cause financial loss or other prejudices to the victim, even if this loss does not actually occur
How are Investigations Conducted in Cases of Conspiracy to Defraud?
Investigations in cases of conspiracy to defraud are typically complex and thorough, as they require uncovering the nature of the agreement, the parties involved and the intent to defraud. Here's how investigations are generally conducted:
- Initial assessment: the investigation usually begins with an assessment of the complaint or suspicion, examining the evidence available and determining the scope of the investigation
- Engaging with specialists: often, specialised fraud investigators, forensic accountants or other experts are involved to analyse complex financial records, communication or other evidence
- Gathering evidence: the investigators collect evidence through various means, including interviewing witnesses, examining documents, conducting surveillance and utilising technological tools to analyse digital footprints
- Cooperating with authorities: in cases involving multiple jurisdictions or international borders, investigators may liaise with foreign law enforcement agencies, regulators or other authorities to obtain necessary information and coordination
- Legal proceedings: if sufficient evidence is found, the case may proceed to legal action, where charges are laid, and the matter is brought before the court
FAQs About Conspiracy to Defraud
What is the sentence for conspiracy to defraud?
Whether you are charged with conspiracy to defraud or conspiracy to commit fraud, your case will be heard at a Crown Court. The maximum sentence that can be given for conspiracy to defraud, fraud by false representation, fraud by failing to disclose information or fraud by abuse of position is 10 years imprisonment.
For information on the sentencing of individuals and corporate bodies in relation to offences of fraud, bribery and money laundering, take a look at this article.
How is conspiracy to defraud different from other types of fraud?
Other types of fraud typically focus on specific acts, such as false representation or failure to disclose information, while conspiracy to defraud emphasises the collective intent and planning between parties to engage in fraudulent behaviour.
Can individuals be charged with conspiracy to defraud without actually committing fraud themselves?
Individuals can be charged with conspiracy to defraud without actually committing the fraudulent act themselves. The offence of conspiracy to defraud is based on the agreement and intention to commit fraud, rather than the execution of the fraudulent act.
If there is evidence of a deliberate agreement between two or more persons to defraud another, even if the fraud has not been carried out, it can still constitute the offence of conspiracy to defraud. This makes it a unique and complex area of law, requiring a sophisticated understanding of the legal framework.
Which offence should be used?
There are certain occasions where only an offence of ‘conspiracy to defraud’ can be prosecuted. This includes offences where, for example, land or other property (e.g. intellectual property or confidential material) is dishonestly obtained but cannot be stolen or the person accused cannot be shown to have sufficient knowledge of the substantive offence.
To assist prosecutors, the Attorney General has provided guidance outlining the issues prosecuting authorities should consider before proceeding with a charge of conspiracy to defraud. In general terms, a prosecutor should charge an alternative statutory offence where it is available.
The body that prosecutes the case (for example, His Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC), Serious Fraud Office (SFO), Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) or Trading Standards) will decide on what charges should be laid at court. It is important, however, that you have in place a solicitor who can assist and advise at each stage of the proceedings as legal arguments may arise that could result in the proceedings being withdrawn or dismissed.
The problem with conspiracy to defraud is the uncertainty of what the prosecution will allege as criminal and furthermore, due to its far-reaching definition, may catch scenarios and or behaviours that would not have otherwise been prosecuted.
Can a conspiracy to defraud occur across international borders?
A conspiracy to defraud can occur across international borders. With the increasing globalisation of business and technology, conspiracies involving parties in different countries have become more common. These add a layer of complexity, as they often involve multiple jurisdictions, legal systems and international laws.