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Monthly Archives: May 2014

Private Investigator Hit With £89,000 Penalty

  • May 5, 2014
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  • A man who ran a company that tricked organisations into revealing personal details about customers has today been ordered to pay a total of £20,000 in fines and prosecution costs, as well as a confiscation order of over £69,000 at a hearing at Isleworth Crown Court.

    Barry Spencer, 42, ran ICU Investigations Limited in Feltham, Middlesex with Adrian Stanton, 40. The pair were convicted at an earlier trial at Isleworth Crown Court on 20 November 2013. On the 24 January 2014, Stanton and five other employees of ICU Investigations Limited were fined a total of £18,500 and ordered to pay £15,607 prosecution costs.

    Barry Spencer, who had pleaded not guilty to conspiring to commit offences under Section 55 of the Data Protection Act, has today been ordered to pay a £12,000 fine and £8,000 towards prosecution costs. A confiscation order of £69,327.32 was made under the Proceeds of Crime Act. Spencer faces a period of 20 months imprisonment should the confiscation order not be paid. He has also been disqualified from being a director for eight years.

    The company ICU Investigations Ltd was also found guilty as a separate defendant and ordered to pay a nominal £100 fine.

    ICO Head of Enforcement Stephen Eckersley said:

    “This fine and confiscation order is not only a justified punishment for Mr Spencer, but also a powerful deterrent to anyone thinking they can profit from illegally blagging personal data.

    “People have the right to have their personal data kept securely. The Information Commissioner’s Office will do everything in its power to bring unscrupulous private investigators, such as ICU Investigations Ltd, to justice, including pursuing confiscation where appropriate to remove the benefit made by offenders from their offending.”

    ICU Investigations Ltd worked on behalf of clients to trace individuals, primarily for the purpose of debt recovery. The company had routinely tricked organisations including utility companies, GP surgeries and TV Licensing into revealing personal data, often by claiming to be the individuals they were trying to trace. Clients included Allianz Insurance PLC, Leeds Building Society and Dee Valley Water. An ICO investigation estimated there were nearly 2,000 separate offences between 1 April 2009 to 12 May 2010. However the ICO found no evidence of criminality by any organisation that employed ICU Investigations Ltd as the information requested could typically have been obtained legitimately.

    Unlawfully obtaining or accessing personal data is a criminal offence under section 55 of the Data Protection Act 1998. The offence is punishable by way of ‘fine only’ – up to £5,000 in a Magistrates Court or an unlimited fine in a Crown Court. The Proceeds of Crime Act provides for the recovery of the proceeds of crime.

    The ICO was aided in their investigation by TITAN, the North West Regional Organised Crime Unit and the Regional Recovery Asset Team (RART).

    http://ico.org.uk/news/latest_news/2014/private-investigator-hit-with-89000-penalty-25042014

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    by Ron

Designer Clothes Counterfeiters Jailed

  • May 4, 2014
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  • Two brothers and their father have been jailed for their parts in manufacturing hundreds of thousands of pounds worth of fake designer garments.

    Kully Screen Printing Ltd, in Galby Street, Spinney Hills, Leicester, was described as a “large-scale, highly sophisticated and a professional operation”.

    At Leicester Crown Court, director Kuldip Singh (26), the “principal offender”, was sentenced to 23 months and banned from holding a company directorship for five years.

    His father, Shinderpal Singh (56), and brother, Sarbjit Singh (24), were each jailed for 11 months.

    All three, of The Circle, Crown Hills, Leicester, admitted offences under the 1994 Trade Mark Act, between October 2010 and August 2011.

    The factory has since been destroyed in a fire.

    Naomi Gilchrist, prosecuting for Leicester City Council trading standards, said: “The business was a front, behind which was a highly fraudulent counterfeiting operation.”

    She said more than 100,000 fake T-shirts, hooded tops and tracksuit bottoms were seized, bearing 27 brand names including Adidas, Nike, Hugo Boss, Lacoste and Diesel.

    Sentencing, Judge Michael Pert QC said: “It was a large-scale enterprise deliberately being carried on as a wholly fraudulent exercise.

    “It involved the production of goods worth hundreds of thousands of pounds.”

    Shinderpal previously ran the business legitimately but, when it failed to make a profit, passed it over to Kuldip in early 2010.

    By the following October, it was mainly producing counterfeit garments.

    Judge Pert said: “Shinderpal Singh continued to work in the factory and was also called upon because of his expertise. Sarbjit Singh is the least involved, although knew what was going on.”

    Trading standards called at the factory in August 2011.

    Sarbjit – who was minding the premises while his brother and father were in India – refused to allow an inspection.

    The business had not submitted any accounts and he hid incriminating paperwork in a hole in the ceiling.

    He drove away a van of counterfeit clothes, before council officers obtained a warrant.

    Nathan Rasiah, for Kuldip, said: “He got involved in a dodgy counterfeit operation, not motivated by greed but while trying to support the family.”

    Philip Bown, for Sarbjit, said he earned “pin money” as a university student, cleaning the premises and did not produce any counterfeit goods.

    Ian Halliday, for their father, said: “He’s embarrassed about the shame he’s brought upon his family.”

    Afterwards, trading standards officer Ben Proctor said: “We are pleased with the sentence which reflects the gravity of what we came across in the factory very well.

    “It’s still a problem nationally and Leicester is one of the hubs where it’s quite serious.”

    Kuldip Singh admitted 26 offences under the Trade Mark Act, his father admitted 19 and his brother admitted 17.

    Read more: http://www.leicestermercury.co.uk/Clothes-counterfeiters-jailed/story-21033367-detail/story.html#ixzz30jOqlDCI

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    by Ron

Legal Aid Row Leads to Halting of Serious Fraud Trial

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    A judge has halted a serious fraud trial after defendants claimed they could not get adequate representation because of cuts to legal aid.

    Alex Cameron QC – the prime minister’s brother, working free of charge on the bid to halt the case – said the defendants would not get a fair trial.

     

     

    The Ministry of Justice said there were “suitably qualified” lawyers available.

     

     

    Many barristers in England and Wales are refusing to take on complex cases because of 30% cuts to their fees.

     

    Judge Anthony Leonard told Southwark Crown Court that the defence had made “very substantial… but unsuccessful” efforts to find barristers to fight the defendants’ case.

     

     

    It would be a “violation” of the legal process to allow the case to proceed, he added.

    Contracts terminated

    The case was brought last year by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) against Scott Crawley and seven other men.

    It concerned the activities of Plott UK Ltd, European Property Investments Ltd and Stirling Alexander Ltd.

    The companies are believed to have taken more than £5m from UK investors between 2008 and 2011, the FCA said at the time.

    Outside court, one of the defendant’s lawyers said the collapse of the trial should be a “wake-up call” to ministers.

    “It is in the interests of justice for both sides that serious and complex cases of this sort should be properly prosecuted and properly tried,” said solicitor Philip Smith.

    “That means with equality of arms whereby you have the best barristers on both sides.”

    He said the involvement of the prime minister’s brother had been “absolutely pivotal” in persuading the judge he could stop the trial.

    Arguing on Monday that the case against five defendants should not go ahead, Mr Cameron said: “A stay is exceptional, but so is lack of representation in this country. We are worried about a fair trial.

    “It’s not the fault of the FCA but we do [blame] the state more widely.”

    BBC News website – http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-27238201

     

     

     

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    by Ron

Bank of England to Withdraw £50 Houblon Note from Circulation

  • May 1, 2014
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  • The £50 note which features a portrait of Sir John Houblon is to be withdrawn from circulation on 30th May 2014.

    The Bank of England estimates that there are still 53 million of the notes in circulation, amounting to a value of £2.65bn.

    Members of the public or business people who use the Houblon £50 notes are being urged to exchange them or deposit them at banks.

    Barclays, NatWest, RBS, Ulster Bank and the Post Office have all agreed to exchange Houblon £50 notes for members of the public up to the value of £200 until 30 October 2014.

    From May onwards, shops are unlikely to accept the older notes as payment. But the £50 banknote featuring Matthew Boulton and James Watt, introduced in 2011, will still be legal.

    Victoria Cleland, head of the notes division at the Bank of England, says the 2011 notes have the better security features that the Houblon versions.

    “We’d expect a lot to be out there,” she said. “There was an increase in demand for fifties during the financial crisis”.

    The withdrawal of the note forms part of the Bank’s crackdown on fraud. The Boulton and Watt notes were the first to feature a green ‘motion thread’, with five windows featuring the pound symbol and the number 50, which moves when titled from side to side.

    A new £10 note bearing a portrait of Jane Austen, to be introduced in 2017, will also use the latest security features.

    Sir John Houlbon was the first governor of the Bank of England. The banknote bearing his portrait was first issued in 1994 as part of the Bank’s 300 anniversary celebrations.

    http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/bank-of-england-to-withdraw-the-houblon-50-note-in-fraud-crackdown-9295816.html

     

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    by Ron

2,500 Websites Shut Down in Counterfeit Goods Crackdown

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  • A specialist police unit has shut down more than 2,500 websites selling counterfeit goods believed to be worth tens of millions of pounds.

    The sites promised authentic designer goods such as Gucci products, GHD hair straighteners, Ugg boots and Hollister clothing. But customers were left short-changed as the items were either poor quality counterfeits or were never delivered.

    The Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit (Pipcu) was launched by City of London police last September and the number of websites suspended by the unit was announced to coincide with World Intellectual Property Day.

    DCI Andy Fyfe, head of Pipcu, said: “The fact Pipcu can announce on World IP Day that in the eight months since launching we have suspended more than 2,500 infringing websites is further evidence of the expertise of our officers and the level of their commitment to clamp down on IP crime. Behind many of these websites lies an organised crime gang funnelling off the money spent by unsuspecting customers on what they think are quality products.

    “Consumers also need to be aware that by accessing websites like this they are running the risk of their personal details being compromised and being used for other fraudulent scams, as well as exposing their computer to malicious malware.”

    Clare Harvell, 42, from Cheshire, was a victim of counterfeit fraud from one of the websites the unit has now suspended. She ordered a pair of UGG boots as a Christmas present for her daughter after clicking on a site that was “listed at the top” of a Google search.

    The site had “high quality images”, she said, and it “looked and sounded legitimate”. But when the boots arrived she was disappointed. “They looked really cheap. In fact the seller had valued them on packaging as only being worth £17, when in fact I had paid over £70 for them. They were wrapped in cardboard and weren’t even in a box,” she said.

    Harvell was able to claim a refund from her credit card company, but she said the issue was ongoing as the website owner had tried to use her card details again.

    http://www.theguardian.com/money/2014/apr/28/counterfeit-goods-crackdown-websites-shut-down-pipcu

     

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    by Ron