12 Oct ‘British Wolves of Wall Street’ convicted after 7 year investigation
12 October 2018
An investigation which his Superintendent promised would take no more than a “few months” ended up lasting Chief Inspector Tim Hurley more than seven years, and uncovered a £1 billion fraud which would shake the British banking industry to its core.
Operation Hornet – which was run by Thames Valley Police – was one of the largest financial fraud cases ever seen with the men at its centre branded the ‘British Wolves of Wall Street’ and being sentenced to more than 96 years in prison.
At the heart of the £1bn fraud was a bent banker – Lynden Scourfield – and a financially savvy criminal mastermind – David Mills.
In a nutshell – the banker, Scourfield worked for HBOS where his role was to help struggling businesses get back on track via the use of third party companies which would provide loans and services aimed at getting the failing businesses back on their feet.
Rather than go through correct bank procedures or providing a variety of options for the businesses in trouble Scourfield would instead pass them on to Quayside Corporate Services which was a ‘turnaround consultancy’ owned by David Mills.
Presenting at the Police Federation National Detectives’ Forum (PFNDF) seminar in Manchester, Chief Inspector Hurley – who was the deputy senior investigating officer for the operation – said: “Before 1999 Lynden Scourfield had no criminal history. That year he met David Mills and within two years they were criminal associates.
“Mills corrupted Scourfield who appears to have been seduced by the lavish lifestyle Mills was offering.
“Mills was financially astute and with the help of Scourfield, an insider perfectly positioned, he was able to exploit already vulnerable bank customers and effectively bleed them dry.”
In return for this unfettered stream of income Mills rewarded Scourfield with an unlimited American Express credit card, paid for lavish holidays to the Caribbean and enabled him to enjoy a lifestyle more associated with movie stars than bank managers.
“Not many people have pay their bank managers credit card bill off at the end of each month or take them on holiday for that matter,” said Chief Inspector Hurley.
The team interviewed 424 people, gathered over 1,000 statements and over 3,000 exhibits. The review of disclosure documents were around 19 million pages, which is unprecedented.
The case took seven years in total to get to trial however after three years the officers were in a position to charge those involved, with the remainder of the time being spent on disclosure issues.
“We had to work closely with the CPS and the barristers right from the start. There was a lot of learning when it came to how to complete disclosure on such a complex and large-scale case,” said Chief Inspector Hurley.
After all their hard work it took just one week for a Jury at Southwark Crown Court to find Mills and four others guilty in January 2017. Scourfield had admitted his part in the scam just a week before the trial got underway.
Mills will serve 15 years and Scourfield 11 years and three months. In total the investigation cost the force £7m. But the asset recovery from the offenders is likely to top £45m.
It has led to a debate around whether a National Fraud Unit is needed to handle complex and lengthy cases like this.
And Op Hornet is not over yet with more and more frauds being identified a core team still remains working on the residual inquiries.
* The Operation Hornet Team were awarded Police Federation Detectives Forum Investigation Team of the Year award in 2017.
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