PracticeConsultingProfession left exposed as tip-off sources are disclosed to fraud suspects

Profession left exposed as tip-off sources are disclosed to fraud suspects

Serious Organised Crime Agency may be revealing to suspects the identities of the accountants who report them for suspicious activity

Accounting institutes made the astonishing claims this week, as they sought
to raise the alarm about a subject that they fear could threaten the safety of
individual members of the profession.

In a letter to Accountancy Age, Peter Hollis, chairman of the
ICAEW’s general practitioners panel, issued a plea for more information from the
profession on the subject.

Hollis said there were fears for the safety of those tipping off the
authorities, as he disclosed to Accountancy Age that he knew of at
least one confirmed case of a qualified accountant reporting a client to SOCA,
only to discover that the report and the source’s identity had been disclosed to
the defence ahead of a court case.

The letter says: ‘[We have] received several reports of members making
suspicious activity reports to SOCA (formerly NCIS) only to find the subject
being made aware of the report. Accountants had relied on assurances that these
reports were confidential and their identities would not leak out. The panel are
very concerned about this whole issue and in particular for the security of the
accountant concerned.’

Chas Roy-Chowdhury, head of taxation at the Association of Chartered
Certified Accountants, said he had encountered cases where people were called in
to meetings with the suspects they had reported to authorities.

‘I have heard of cases where officials have called in an accountant, who has
provided a tip-off, to a meeting with the person reported on. It shows a total
lack of understanding from officials and places professionals in an awkward and
risky position,’ said Roy-Chowdhury.

The leaks of identities to alleged fraudsters could threaten SOCA’s
relationship, so soon after its high-profile launch earlier this year.

The body relies on suspicious activity reports to maintain its flow of
information. The Agency combined the functions of the National Crime Squad, the
National Criminal Intelligence Service and certain functions of HM Revenue
& Customs. SOCA was granted far reaching powers enabling it to force
accountants, bankers and IFAs to answer questions about fraud cases.

SOCA was unable to comment at the time of Accountancy Age going to
press.

SOCA STATS :

200,000
The number of suspicious activity reports received by SOCA’s precursor agency
NCIS in 2005

£185m
The value of criminal assets recovered over the last three years

40,000
The tip-offs that opened up a new subject of interest for HM Revenue &
Customs

2
Arrests made in relation to drug trafficking cases instigated because
of suspicious activity reports

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