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Lawyer linked to stock fraud
Last updated 14:38 15/06/2012
An Auckland lawyer linked in court documents to a multinational $128 million stock fraud has lost a bid to stop the UK Serious Fraud Office (UK SFO) executing a search warrant on his law firm office.
The lawyer, who has name suppression along with that of the firm he works for, is allegedly linked to "boiler room" fraud in which three Spanish companies, Tresaderns & Partners SL, Price Stone Group SL and Anderson McCormack SL, sold worthless restricted US stock to UK investors over the phone.
Seven people are awaiting trial in Britain where reports said the accused used the proceeds to fund worldwide property purchases, Ferraris and BMWs, exotic holidays and expensive jewellery.
The Auckland lawyer - known as "X" - has lost a bid at the Court of Appeal to declare a search warrant and the cloning of his computer as invalid. He had also lost an earlier High Court bid to overturn the Auckland District Court warrant.
In the latest ruling a three person Court of Appeal panel said the fraudsters "had established an extensive global network of accounts through which the funds were 'laundered'."
In January last year the UK fraud office, as part of "Operation Steamroller", formally requested New Zealand assistance with an investigation into X.
Their application said X had "a longstanding association (with) the conspirators as an adviser, and advocate and intermediary with independent banks, civil litigator and a representative of those alleged to be involved in the conspiracy..."
It said X had carried out the role of group counsel, "describing himself as "global legal counsel" and providing advice to all tiers of the fraudulent enterprise.
UK SFO listed the crimes linked to the request for assistance: fraud, obtaining money and property by deception, money laundering and corruption.
They also wanted X's home searched but withdrew that later saying they only wanted the office subject to a search.
As part of the search, X's computer was cloned by a New Zealand SFO specialist and it has been deposited with the High Court pending appeal.
The Court of Appeal rejected X's appeal and ordered X to pay costs.
Earlier, before Justice Timothy Brewer at the High Court, correspondence from Clive Lambert of the UK SFO to the New Zealand Attorney General seeking help was submitted. In it X is described as the principal.
"Material in our possession indicates that (the principal) has set up the myriad corporate entities which provided a veil behind which (a suspect) disguises his fraudulent activities," Lambert wrote.
"It appears that (the principal) has little regard for money laundering provisions and procedures in relation to identifying who his client is."
UK SFO says there is no identified payments to X for legal services aside from one of US$480,044.55 in 2007.
"This lack of an identifiable payment mechanism raises the question as to whether (the principal) is receiving payment through other means," Lambert said.
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