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Scams by managers push up fraud cases to £3.5bn, KPMG reports

The KPMG’s Fraud Barometer recorded 57 cases of purported fraud by management in 2011 with a value of £729m, up from £420m last year

Cases of alleged fraud in the UK soared by 150% in 2011 to a record £3.5bn, with scams purportedly perpetrated by companies’ own management rising in value by 74%.

More than 70% of the total was recorded in the second half of the year, according to figures published by the accountants KPMG.

Hitesh Patel, a forensic partner at KPMG, said: “2011 was an extraordinary year for fraudsters. The economic uncertainty has been the double-edged sword behind these numbers: companies and government agencies have rooted out more fraud through implementing austerity measures and operational changes, while at the same time the pressures on individuals as a result of the downturn continues to act as a catalyst for more fraud being perpetrated.”

The firm’s Fraud Barometer, which has been running for 25 years monitoring reported scams, recorded £2.5bn of fraud between July and December, including five cases involving more than £50m each that came to court.

The alleged rogue trading case at UBS accounted for £1.3bn alone, but even without its inclusion the second half of 2011 would still have recorded the largest amount of fraud recorded in a six-month period, the accountants said.

Other significant cases to hit the courts included that of Nigel Cranswick, a former police officer who in October admitted a £300m VAT fraud, believed to be the biggest in UK history.

The KPMG report said 57 cases of purported fraud by management during 2011 had a value of £729m, up from about £420m the previous year, although the number of cases remained roughly the same as in 2010.

Patel said: “This is a startling statistic and in the time I’ve been running this survey I’ve never seen such a high rise in management fraud.

“It involves [defrauding] funders and bankers to keep the lid on poor performance so they don’t foreclose on a company, as well as management literally taking money out of the business to fund a lifestyle.”

Financial institutions were the largest victims of fraud, with 59 cases worth a total of £1.5bn. The public sector continued to be fertile ground, with the highest number of recorded cases at 68, totalling £1.1bn.

The KPMG barometer considers major fraud cases being heard in crown courts, where charges are brought for alleged crimes in excess of £100,000. It is likely that total fraud is many times higher than identified in the report.

The largest perpetrators of fraud, the report says, are professional criminals who participated in 98 fraud cases totalling £1.4bn.

“Their illegal activities have a corrosive impact on the civil society,” Patel said. “The proceeds from white collar crime such as sale of counterfeit goods and financial fraud are often redeployed to more serious nefarious activities such as human and drugs trafficking and terrorism among others.” © 2012 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds