Dedicated Team to Tackle Business Crime; LEGAL in Association with WWW.Wilkes.Co.UK Lawyers Set for Cases as Fraud Rates Rise in Recession

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Byline: TOM SCOTNEY Legal & Finance Editor

Law firm Challinors has set up a dedicated fraud and asset recovery team in Birmingham to deal with rising rates of reported business crime across the region.

And fraud lawyers at firms across the city have been finding more work coming in as recession-hit firms uncover more shady dealings after examining their books. The team at Challinors will take in two of the firm's partners - Arun Chauhan and Mark Kenkre - to work on a variety of types of complicated fraud case, supported by seven solicitors at the firm's Newhall Street offices.

And while the team at Challinors is believed to be the largest one working outside London, other fraud lawyers in Birmingham said they had also seen plenty of work turn up since the advent of the financial downturn.

The firm has signed a major contract to work with a government agency - which cannot be named - and has also seen plenty of one-off approaches from corporate clients.

MrChauhan said: "If you look at where the specialist fraud lawyers are based in the industry, it's predominantly down in London. It just seemed to make sense to launch one here on the basis of the amount of work relating to fraud we are doing.

"We've got work with the government agency, we have a group of major clients and we are finding more and more one-off corporate clients. Work spins off into other departments - it can bring in business for other partners in the firm.

"We are building up links with insolvency practitioners because it's only when people start to go through the books things start to turn up."

The fraud team will work across the whole Midlands area, and plans to bid for national work as well.

The Midlands has been a focus point for fraud in recent years, particularly with 'carousel' VAT fraud-often relating to mobile phone importers based in Staffordshire.

Carousel fraud, which saps hundreds of millions of pounds from British taxpayers a year, involves importing fictitious goods and falsely claiming VAT back on the nonexistant purchases.

Fraudster Craig Johnson is currently having his assets across the Midlands and the United Arab Emirates picked apart by authorities in an attempt to claw back some of more than pounds 100mhe and his associates illegally acquired.

And mortgage fraud has also been on the rise, with investors looking more closely at their assets because of the effects of the credit crunch, and so becoming more likely to discover discrepancies.

Andy Hodges, the chief executive of Challinors, said it made sound financial sense to set up a fraud team in the current climate, with so many more cases cropping up.

"There's an increase and this economic market will highlight it," he said. …