Robert Wynn Jones-Article-201608160843

Mishcon de Reya is positioning itself at the forefront of efforts to tackle the growing problem of cyber crime, with a lead role on a new police initiative to recover assets stolen by online fraudsters.

With the annual cost of fraud in the UK reportedly as high as £193bn a year, the two-year pilot scheme will see the City of London Police work with the firm to identify, seize and recover assets from criminals, with civil asset recovery litigation running alongside parallel criminal investigations.

Mishcons civil fraud partner Robert Wynn Jones (pictured above) said: “While it is revolutionary, we are still very much at the working group phase. I think it’s a good thing and very necessary, given the scale of normal and cyber fraud taking place at the moment. The police simply do not have the capacity to pursue all of those cases, and something has to give.”

He credited Mishcons’ civil fraud practice with having the necessary experience to have been recommended for the scheme. If the pilot is successful, more law firms could be called on to take the project further.

He said: “There is no strict formula as to how the scheme might work. However, currently if there is a wealthy individual or large corporate subject to civil fraud, they can come to us directly anyway. But if there are a number of victims of fraud by the same perpetrator who have each lost smaller amounts, they can pool their resources and go to the police, who will then talk to us. Potentially, we can then combine to recover those funds. Separately, those individuals are not likely to come to us to ask for help, but this scheme could give them that opportunity.

“Any litigation funders would take a cut of the overall recovery, but the alternative is that nobody does anything and nobody gets anything recovered. In the wake of such massive amounts of fraud, some of which are not even investigated, then this scheme has to be a good idea.”

The City of London Police’s economic crime directorate believes that civil litigation will speed up the recovery of stolen assets.

City of London Police detective superintendent Maria Woodall, operational lead for the pilot, added: “We are looking to use the private sector’s ability and expertise to take back these assets using civil litigation while freeing up time for our officers to concentrate on building the criminal cases against those individuals and groups.”

For the first year, the project will be part-funded through the Home Office’s police innovation fund, after a successful application for £157,000. A similar level of funding has been applied for year two.