Monday, October 26, 2020

UK regulator investigates prestigious law firm Mishcon de Reya over money laundering

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The law firm that acted for Diana, Princess of Wales, in her divorce from Prince Charles is at the centre of investigations connected to alleged money laundering and tax evasion.

It is understood that regulators are probing Mishcon de Reya, one of the most prominent solicitors’ practices in London, in three separate cases.

One involves allegations over a fee paid by Newcastle United football club to an agent in the signing nine years ago of Demba Ba, a Senegal international.

The lawyers are also being investigated over their involvement with a former client, Luis Nobre, a Portuguese fraudster who was jailed for 14 years after being convicted of laundering £100 million. Nobre was part of a gang that convinced the Allseas Group to invest millions in a bogus scheme that purported to involve business deals with the Vatican and Spanish nobility.

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The Times understands that the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA), which covers England and Wales, has launched at least one more investigation into the firm.

The cases are not connected, however, and no charges of professional misconduct or criminal offences have been brought.

Complaints to the SRA are common and trigger about 6,000 investigations a year, including self-referrals by legal practices. It is understood that in these cases, at least one investigation was triggered when Mishcon de Reya referred itself to the authority.

The series of investigations relating to the firm emerged in The Guardian, which reported that a 2017 court ruling disclosed that HM Revenue & Customs had investigated its role in a range of footballer transfers. The HMRC inquiry was dubbed Operation Loom and it is reported that investigators had indicated that production orders “would be sought against” the law firm.

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Yesterday HMRC would not comment. The SRA said: “We do not normally comment on the details of our investigations. It is only if action is necessary that it becomes a matter of public record.”

In a statement to The Times, the law firm said: “There have been no adverse judicial or regulatory findings against our firm or any of our partners or employees in relation to the matters described.”

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