Conspiracy Claims

Facing a conspiracy claim is a serious legal matter that could result in severe consequences, including imprisonment, hefty fines, and asset seizure.

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    Conspiracy Claims

    Facing a conspiracy claim is a serious legal matter that could result in severe consequences, including imprisonment, hefty fines, and asset seizure. To safeguard your rights and mount a strong defense, seek guidance from our expert conspiracy and serious organised crime solicitors.

    Our highly skilled team can assist you in building a robust defense against charges of conspiracy to defraud, provide representation during interviews and court appearances, and negotiate with prosecutors on your behalf.

    Take the first step towards protecting your future by contacting us for a free initial consultation. Simply call us today on 020 7467 3980 or complete the enquiry form on this page.

    What is a conspiracy claim

    There are two types of conspiracy claims:

    • Unlawful means conspiracy requires the use of unlawful means in furtherance of the agreement, and an intention to cause injury to the target; and
    • Lawful means conspiracy does not require any unlawful acts to be done by the parties to the agreement, however it does require the parties’ sole or predominant purpose to have been to cause injury to the target.

    The elements common to both types of conspiracy are agreement, concerted action and damage.

    When considering a conspiracy claim it is also important to think about whether there is any causal link between the allegations made and the extent of the monetary relief sought in the claim and any time limitation defence.

    Generally, a claimant has six years from the date on which a cause of action accrues to bring a claim. However,section 32 of the Limitations Act 1980 provides an exception to this general rule and covers claims based on fraud, concealment or mistake.

    In these circumstances, time does not begin to run until the claimant has discovered the fraud, concealment or mistake, or could with reasonable diligence have discovered it. 

    How to prove a conspiracy claim

    The elements below must exist to prove a conspiracy claim:
    1. Agreement
      There must be an agreement between two or more persons to injure another. It is not necessary for there to be an agreement in the contractual sense: a tacit agreement or understanding will be sufficient.

      So long as each individual conspirator knows the central facts and entertains the same object, it is not necessary that all conspirators join the agreement at the same time.
    2. Concerted Action
      A claimant must also show that concerted action has been taken pursuant to that agreement. Concerted action can be direct or indirect, but it must be more than mere facilitation.Concerted action does not necessarily require much.  By way of example, a director may be using their company to carry out a complicated money laundering operation for third party fraudsters.

      If a co-director discovers the illegitimate reason for the payment and chooses to do nothing (impliedly authorising it), they will likely be liable for conspiracy.

      On the other hand, if the co-director innocently transfers funds to an offshore bank account at another director’s request (with a wholly plausible and legitimate explanation), they are more likely to be considered a mere facilitator.

      This distinction between concerted action and facilitation was considered relatively recently by the Court of Appeal in Lakatamia Shipping Co. Ltd–v- Su & ors [2021] EWCA.

    3. Loss and Damage
      It is important to establish that the concerted act of the defendant has caused loss or damage to the claimant. If not, there can be no claim for conspiracy.

    Types of conspiracy to commit fraud

    There are two types of conspiracy to defraud – economic and non-economic loss.

    • Economic loss: When two or more people agree to deprive someone else of something they own or are entitled to.
    • Non-economic loss: When two or more people agree to deceive someone into doing something that goes against the duty they owe to their clients or employers.

    In either case, as long as the collaborators agree to the fraudulent action, conspiracy to defraud has occurred – regardless of whether or not the crime is carried out.

    The following are examples of conspiracy to defraud:

    • A group of individuals conspire to create fake documents to obtain loans or mortgages
    • A group of people set up a ‘ponzi’ investment scheme that promises unattainable high returns
    • Two or more people collaborate to stage a fake accident to collect money from an insurance company
    • Businesses collude to fix prices or rig bids to defraud consumers or competitors
    • Employees agree to work together to embezzle funds from their employer

    Someone rents an office space as part of a plan to defraud someone
    Individuals might set up a fake charity to solicit donations from the public.

    How can I bring a conspiracy claim

    If you have suffered quantifiable loss or damages as a result of the defendant’s actions, the first step would be preparing a formal Letter of Claim (which is a pre -requisite to issuing a civil fraud claim in court).

    This can be used as a strategic tool for a Claimant, to gather as much information about the case and to support any inferences that might later be drawn.

    In some circumstances, it might not be appropriate to prepare a Letter of Claim, particularly if the matter is urgent and there is a need to act quickly (i.e. in cases where there is real risk of dissipation of assets by the prospective defendant).

    In fraud cases, many claimants do not wish to issue a Letter of Claim as it puts the defendant on notice that you are about to issue proceedings, and this could entice them to dissipate/transfer substantial assets and therefore heighten recoverability issues for a Claimant in the proceedings.

    In these circumstances, the court will often allow a claimant to issue a claim against a defendant (without first having issued a letter of claim) and simultaneously seek interim relief available including:

    • Interim injunctions: preventing a party from, or compelling a party to, do something.
    • Freezing injunctions: if there is a risk of dissipation of assets (without notice to the defendant).
    • Proprietary injunctions: preventing a Defendant from dealing with a Claimant’s assets.
    • Search orders: allowing a Claimant’s representative to enter the Defendant’s premises to search for, copy and remove documents or material. This is often referred to as the most draconian order that the Court can make.

    Key consideration before issuing a conspiracy claim

    There can be a number of advantages in claiming conspiracy in a case involving commercial fraud:
    • A claim of conspiracy potentially allows a claimant to bring proceedings against a greater number of defendants than other causes of action would allow.
    • It may also allow claims against those who are not otherwise individually liable for any underlying wrongful act.
    • Evidence in respect of the actions of any of the defendants in the alleged conspiracy will be admissible against their alleged co-conspirators.
    However, there can also be disadvantages to bringing a conspiracy claim:
    • The claimant will have the burden of proving the conspiracy claim.
    • It is unlikely that, at the stage of bringing the claim, the claimant will have any direct evidence of a conspiracy, and they will therefore be basing the claim on inference. Whilst it is inevitable that there will be a degree of speculation in most conspiracy claims, it is important to remember that the case will have to be clearly put to the defendants during the hearing. Claimants should be wary of bringing a claim based purely or mainly on suspicion; the allegation must be able to withstand scrutiny.
    • As a claim of conspiracy will involve multiple defendants, the burden of preparing and presenting the case will be increased. This means it might be a more expensive claim than one involving other causes of action
    • There is a risk of casting the net too wide. A Claimant might be unsuccessful against some of the Defendants and be subject to potential adverse costs orders.

    How can conspiracy claims be defended

    In respect of either type of conspiracy the following defences could be raised, however its dependent upon the facts of each case:

    • There was simply no agreement of any sort between the defendants or any of them.
    • Even if there was an agreement of some sort, no concerted action was taken pursuant to that agreement. For example, it may be argued that a defendant was merely a ‘facilitator’ rather than an ‘actor’ as per the example made above.
    • No damage was caused to the claimant. The scope of this defence is limited as once a claimant establishes that it has suffered some pecuniary loss, damages are considered at large. However, it is important that the claimant has established a clear causal link between the act of fraud or conspiracy to the relief sough in their claim.

    It is important to remember that the claimant will have the heavy burden of proving a conspiracy claim against a defendant.

    Claimants will often try to bring claims against more than one defendant as it increases the chances of a recovery. This can however have adverse cost consequences if a claim against one or more defendant fails.

    Contact our conspiracy claim lawyers today

    Our conspiracy claim lawyers are backed with extensive experience acting for both claimants and defendants in complex, high value civil fraud proceedings.

    For your free initial consultation, please call us on 020 4586 4575, or complete our online enquiry form and our specialist civil fraud lawyers will be in touch to discuss how we can help you.

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