the professional negligence blog

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Fraud, forgery and conspiracy: Inferring Dishonesty

“The Bank was just able to put salt upon his tail - and only just.”

So says a prison warder in Dickens’ David Copperfield of how Uriah Heep came to be convicted and sentenced to transportation for life for “fraud, forgery and conspiracy” in a “deep plot for a large sum” against the Bank of England.

The Uriah Heeps of our times have practised mortgage fraud and their epilogues are pronounced by the Court of Appeal Criminal Division.

In R v Kimani [2012] EWCA Crim 2881 the prosecution’s case was that Mrs Kimani’s signature appeared on a mortgage application form for a purchase from a “Mr Kibiku”; that “Mr Kibiku” was in fact Mrs Kimani’s husband; and that the purchase was a sham to release equity from a property already owned by the family.

Mrs Kimani appealed her conviction, claiming be a woman dragged down by a mountain of evidence against her co-accused (her husband and a dishonest mortgage broker). She acknowledged that the application form had contained falsehoods, including as to her nationality and employment, but argued that there was no evidence that she knew that the application contained false information.

So what was the salt upon Mrs Kimani’s tail? As Davis L.J. said, “The evidence against the appellant was essentially circumstantial, but it was none the worse for that”. There were a number of strands to the evidence:

·         A sum corresponding to the balance due on completion had appeared in her joint account on the day of the purchase

·         She was named as the landlord in a Council document prior to the purchase

·         A Council document completed by a tenant described her as the wife of “Mr Kibiku”

These factors were specific to Mr Kimani but the Crown Court judge had also considered that the “generalities of the situation, her own knowledge of her own means” and the fact “that ordinarily an applicant would know of the content of an application form they signed” were matters from which the jury could be invited to infer dishonesty.

I leave you with words of the penitent Uriah Heep which you may think have some resonance to our own banking troubles:

“Before I come here, I was given to follies; but now I am sensible of my follies.”

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