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Employing a Personal Assistant? Don't Allow a Cuckoo Into Your Nest

Published on Jul 8, 2021

Many busy people place enormous trust in their personal assistants, giving them full access to all corners of their personal and business lives. However, there is always a risk that such confidence will be betrayed and, as one case showed, it makes good sense to have their credentials professionally checked before taking them on. 

A successful photographer for many years employed as his personal assistant a woman who had previous convictions for no fewer than 44 offences. He entrusted all his bookkeeping and financial affairs to her and also employed her husband to manage his property portfolio. She was the principal perpetrator of a long series of sophisticated frauds whereby hundreds of thousands of pounds of his and his companies' money were diverted to the couple's bank accounts.

The truth emerged after he discovered that one of his accounts was overdrawn by £50,000. Accountancy reports indicated that, as a result of the couple's activities, he and his companies lost around £840,000. The woman subsequently pleaded guilty to theft and her husband to fraud. Both also admitted money laundering offences. She received a 66-month prison sentence and her husband a 40-month term.

After confiscation proceedings were launched against the couple under the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002, a judge found that they had benefited from crime to the tune of £523,657. However, they had no tangible assets of any kind and the woman claimed that she had spent all the fraudulently obtained money on expensive holidays and rent. The judge, however, disbelieved her and found that the couple had hidden assets totalling £248,657. They each received confiscation orders in that amount. 

Ruling on their challenge to those orders, the Court of Appeal acknowledged that a number of administrative and procedural errors were made when drawing them up. The couple had, however, suffered no prejudice as a result. The judge's ruling that they had hidden assets was unassailable. Their appeals were dismissed.

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