Have you been invited to attend an interview about loans which your business received as part of the “Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme” or are you worried that you may be under investigation?
Many businesses were granted financial aid during the pandemic. Packaged as the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme or CJRS the financial assistance rolled out by the government included:
- The Bounce Back Loan Scheme (BBLS)
- The Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS)
- The Coronavirus Large Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CLBILS)
- The Future Fund
Applications for funding were, by necessity and design, fast-tracked and subject to minimal scrutiny.
The Government offered an “amnesty” where a tax assessment would be levied for the return of the loan. This amnesty period for honest (or not) mistakes has long since finished and specialist investigators have been appointed by the Department for Business Energy and Industrial Strategy and the Insolvency Service to review suspect applications.
We are now seeing prosecutions of some directors involved in these loans.
If your business is suspected of having fraudulently obtained a loan via BBLS, CBILS, CLBILS or the Future Fund it is likely that the directors who made the application will be invited to an interview under caution (PACE).
Being interviewed under caution sounds daunting. However, it is important to bear in mind that the caution is designed to protect the person being interviewed and the interview is an opportunity to put forward a robust defence. We routinely find that it is possible, to apply techniques and strategies to navigate a path through the process and resolve matters without charges being brought.
We can help.
We can represent you at a PACE interview and we will be able to:
- Get disclosure of the case against you, so we can advise you on the allegation and evidence. That is not always the case if a director attends without a solicitor.
- Probe the investigator regarding the nature, extent and quality of the evidence gathered.
- Advise you thoroughly regarding the strength of the evidence, interview tactics, and the law relating to fraud by false representation.
- Discuss with you the option of making a comprehensive written statement to be read at the start of the interview and avoid self-incrimination.
- Make sure the interview is conducted fairly and any oppressive or unsuitable questions are swiftly retracted.
Following the interview, there is often a period of around three months before a charging decision is made. We can provide ongoing pre-charge advice to strengthen your defence.
This sort of investigation should be taken very seriously.
A charge of fraud by false representation is a serious criminal offence with a maximum sentence of 10 years imprisonment. A deliberate fraud of £50,000 (the maximum that could be obtained in one BBL) could attract a starting point of 3 years imprisonment where the fraud by a director was part of a planned, group activity.
Confiscation proceedings to recover the proceeds of the fraud would usually follow conviction. This means directors would have to repay the loan in addition to any fines and costs.
We can also help with other regulatory law matters, view the details here.