House Theft. Oops They Did It Again. As You Were, On Conveyancing Fraud.
In October 2016 I wrote this Blog. Link Here.
It referred back to my Blog of May 2016 Link here
To remind you, those Blogs were discussions of two cases with similar facts. Both dealt with the increasingly prevalent crime of Real Property theft by fraud. Pretending to own a house, and “selling” it.
Increasingly in England, a Country where title deeds written on paper have been abolished, criminals are realising that confidence-trickery is back in fashion
Employing the same techniques as those persons who used to meet people at the railway station in Blackpool and sell them the Blackpool tower, millions of pounds are being stolen.
A Crook’s manual – Basically, you find an empty property of high value. There are loads of them. Buy the title register entries from the Land Registry and you will eventually find one with no mortgages charged. And it will tell you who you need to pretend to be.
Forge a driving licence and TV licence or just forge copies and add a forged “true copy” certificate in the name of a High Street Solicitor and you are in business, ready to find a Buyer and instruct a Solicitor.
In May 2016, poor old Mr Purrunsing dropped £470,000.00.
The Court agreed that his solicitor and the “Seller’s” Solicitor –that is, the lawyer who did not know that his client was a crook – had done nothing seriously wrong: they had been fooled just as much as Mr P. But the Court with the benefit of hindsight said both Solicitors could have been criticised for being a more little focussed on the need to complete the transaction rather than on the risks. (Bear in mind that both Solicitors would have been under the usual constant client pressure to rush to completion)
On the basis of no better law than a general feeling of sympathy with Mr P and a feeling that neither Solicitors was more obviously at fault than the other, the Court made both firms of lawyers cough up half each to reimburse him.
What nonsense, I suggested.
Will the courts in future suggest that Solicitors should reimburse their clients if ever they get burgled in their new homes? What with it being awful bad luck and all?
But in October I was saying Hurray, or is it Hurrah, because common sense had raised its lovely head.
Here, on pretty much identical facts of a fraudster legging it with over a million pounds, the Courts said – we have sympathy with the victim of this fraud, but all that the two firms of lawyers were doing was putting into effect an agreement whereby a man had agreed to take a transfer from another man and pay a million. The Court accepted that a sophisticated criminal has targeted a purchaser, and stolen money from him. If the Solicitors had done anything wrongly or carelessly it would have been otherwise, no doubt, but the whole point of fraud is to appear genuine. It did appear genuine. Everyone was taken in. No-one was at fault.
So no, in October, the loss stayed with the targeted victim of the fraud.
And if I may say, quite right too.
So now, guess what, it’s as you were.
Except today, in his wisdom, a Judge has decided that the solicitor who should reimburse all losses, is the BUYER’s Solicitor. And try as I might – in the judgment here – I cannot see any reason given except that that firm of Solicitors is one of the very large London firms, presumably with a lot more money in their Bank than their client has.
So it seems to me, that the current law (this week!) is that after a property fraud, the loser is to be the player with the most money.
Does it then follow that if a small firm of Solicitors in the High Street was acting, and the Buyer was Tesco’s, then Tesco should pay? Will all parties to litigation now have to be means tested and ranked in order of richness? Doesn’t seem to me to be a decision based on the most impressive of legal reasoning. Not too clever at all, really.
The position is that in the past twelve months, three very similar property-selling frauds have had three different outcomes.
In May 2016, the two firms of solicitors – Buyer’s and Seller’s – had to suffer the loss half each.
In October, the frustrated intending Buyer had to suffer all the loss personally.
This week, the Buyer’s Solicitor had to suffer the loss entirely.
So we just need one more, where the Judge decides that the Solicitors acting for the fraudster should carry the can entirely, and we have got the full house.
Blimey. And of course, the latest case is now going for Appeal, so it may be all change again before too long. And it really should be.
As I said in October, if we don’t know what the law is, why do we even have laws?
The reality is that this is the third case, in a year, of property theft involving huge sums of money. The Courts are in a tizzy chasing around giving different decisions each time as to who should be in charge of paying for closing the stable door after a crook has stolen the horse.
But what is going on here? Why is it so easy for the crooks?
What’s that I hear from the back of the room, – Bring back Title Deeds? No sh.., Sherlock!
Until then, here we are.
That’s better, here’s a song. About stealing. Link here
As ever, do contact me or Christopher Atkinson here at AtkinsonNotary [0113 816 0116 or firstname.lastname@example.org or http://www.atkinsonnotary.com ] where we shall be more than happy to assist and help you through the maze whenever you have paperwork to be processed for foreign countries.