Seven arrested as Serious Fraud Office investigates law firm’s £66m black hole
The Serious Fraud Office has arrested seven individuals and carried out searches across nine sites, as part of a criminal investigation into collapsed law firm Axiom Ince and £66m of missing client money.
The Solicitors Regulation Authority shut Axiom Ince in October when £66m in client money was found to be missing from its accounts and spent.
The collapse came just months after two major acquisitions which increased Axiom Ince’s workforce to more than 1,400 people.
It bailed out shipping law specialists Ince in a pre-pack deal in late May, and rebranded as Axiom Ince. Six weeks later it rescued Leeds-headquartered Plexus in another pre-pack deal that saved 540 jobs.
The firm was previously known as Axiom DWFM following the merger in 2021 between Axiom Stone and DWFM Beckman, with bases in Birmingham, Bristol, Swindon and Edgware.
Nick Ephgrave QPM, director of the Serious Fraud Office, said: “There are a number of significant questions that need to be answered: clients from this law firm are missing many millions of pounds and more than 1,400 of its staff have lost their jobs. The impact on those affected is extremely serious.
“This morning, we have used our specialist powers to obtain important information that will help us get to the bottom of what happened.”
The Metropolitan Police referred the case to the SFO due to the complexity of the alleged fraud and today more than 80 SFO investigators, accompanied by Metropolitan Police officers, went to locations across the South East of England to bring individuals in for questioning and search for potential evidence.
Investigators will also examine how funds passed from the firm’s client accounts with Barclays to the State Bank of India to fund these purchases.