Dramatic drop in volume and value of fraud cases

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There was a dramatic drop in the volume and value of fraud cases coming to courts in the Midlands in 2020, as measures introduced in response to the COVID-19 pandemic led to the closure and postponement of many court operations.

Only 25 cases with a combined value of £59.8m were heard in the region’s courts this year – 12 in the East Midlands and 13 in the West Midlands – compared to 67 cases totalling £684m in 2019.

Although the value and volume of cases dropped, the types of fraud committed generally remained on par with last year.

Commercial businesses were the main victims in 2020, being 44% of cases compared to 28% in 2019. However, there was a notable drop in the number of fraud cases against government organisations, with four in 2020, compared to 24 in 2019.

Julie Bruce, forensic director at KPMG in the Midlands, said: “Considering many of our regional courts were temporarily closed earlier in the year due to the pandemic, it’s no surprise that the volume of cases has dropped. However, this also suggests that the true extent of fraud committed across the region is yet to come to light, particularly given everything going on in the world at the moment.

“Commercial businesses were the most common targets locally and with many experiencing pressures and uncertainty in the current environment, the risk of fraud by employees in businesses will only continue to increase. The methods that criminals are using to extract either data or cash are ever evolving, so businesses must be vigilant and ensure protective measures are in place and that any controls are effective and regularly tested and monitored.”

Case studies to reach the region’s courts during this period include:

A trio of Warwickshire conmen who claimed £29.5m in tax relief against a fake project
A lawyer and his colleague from Loughborough who tried to sell £3m worth of properties that they did not own
A charity boss from Shropshire who stole £184,000 to pay off credit card bills

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