'Acted...in R v Ketan Somaia, the largest ever private prosecution brought by an individual in the UK. The case concerned obtaining USD19.7 million by deception' Chambers UK 2016
'Members can cover all types of work from fraud, corruption and regulatory cases to general crime' Legal 500 2017
'The set has ‘a very impressive depth of counsel’; it is ‘ahead of the curve in terms of identifying new legal areas and developments in the market’, and continues to attract leading names' Legal 500 2016
Corporate and General Crime Private Prosecutions
A uniquely experienced team, their prominence on both sides of private prosecutions within the field of fraud, is unrivalled.
In 2014 the Lord Chief Justice commented upon the increase in private prosecutions at what he perceived to be a time of economic retrenchment in areas where the State had previously had the resources and the will to conduct prosecutions itself. In the current climate, private prosecutions can provide an opportunity for some victims of criminal conduct to seek justice, even when the State has neither the political will nor the resources or expertise to do so for them. Our experience of these private prosecutions are vast and have largely been in the complex field of financial crime and, in particular, of fraud.
The standards demanded by the Courts of those conducting a private prosecution are of the highest order. As established leaders in this field, QEB Hollis Whiteman has unparalleled experience in bringing private prosecutions, providing a forward-thinking and client-focused approach, whilst strictly observing the duty of a private prosecutor to act as a minister of justice.
In David Haigh v City of Westminster Magistrates’ Court (2017), the Administrative Court observed that:
“...because private interests are, to some degree, almost invariably inherent in the bringing and conduct of private prosecutions, there is more scope for scrutiny of private prosecutors than public prosecutors.”
Our unrivalled experience in bringing private prosecutions in the field of fraud means that we are also uniquely well-placed when defending to assess whether a private prosecution adheres to the high standards required of private prosecutors, and to challenge the genesis of the prosecution if it does not.
Our Corporate Fraud unit specialises in high-value and complex crime, bringing cases on behalf of companies and individuals.
From 2009 to 2017, William Boyce QC and Rachna Gokani acted for the prosecution in what is believed to be the largest private prosecution brought by an individual, R v Somaia. The prosecution resulted in nine convictions for obtaining money transfers by deception, with a value of US$19.7m. The defendant was sentenced to eight years’ imprisonment.
The Case of R v Somaia was described by the trial Judge as an 'exceptional' fraud, involving the loan of over US$20m between businessmen in reliance on nothing more than 'my word is my bond'. In refusing a defence application to stop the proceedings, the Judge observed that the prosecuting solicitors (Peters & Peters) and 'the experienced leading and Junior Counsel instructed by them have progressed this private prosecution in a professional and principled way, observing the duties owed to the Court to ensure that the trial is fair'. The prosecution team had the full confidence of the Court, applying standards that are maintained throughout the practice group at QEB Hollis Whiteman.
Our reputation for bringing private prosecutions in the field of fraud has made us the go-to set for defending them; as we have impressed for the prosecution, so too have we for the defence.
From 2015 to 2017, Chambers represented former Gibson Dunn partner Peter Gray in a private prosecution dismissed by the Magistrates' Court as 'wholly improper'. The private prosecutor, David Haigh, was ordered to pay £190,000 in costs, on the basis that they had resulted from the 'improper act' of instituting proceedings.
In 2016, Chambers successfully acted for a former Director of a British bank who, together with the bank itself, was the subject of a private prosecution for allegations of historic fraud. The proceedings were withdrawn in the Magistrates’ Court.
Members are also acting in a private prosecution brought by the world’s largest legal expenses Insurer against, amongst others, its former CEO as well as in another brought by a foreign (EU) Company against a UK Company, and one brought in the context of a long-running, multi-jurisdictional family dispute.
Members are uniquely experienced to identify the weaknesses in any private prosecution being brought and to exploit them to the advantage of the defendant. We have experience of all tiers of the legal system in this field and of advancing difficult arguments at every level with grace, authority and to great effect.
R v Somaia (Ketan) (2009-2017)
Successful Private Prosecution: Ketan Somaia convicted by a Jury of nine counts of Obtaining a Money Transfer by Deception.
Haigh v Gray & Others (2015)
Defending Partner of global Law Firm subject to Private Prosecution in respect of Allegations of People Trafficking and Fraud.
William Boyce QC and Rachna Gokani consider the 'growth industry' of private prosecutions and their role in safeguarding justice.