Only one case in 2020
Fraudsters exploit Covid courts shutdown
Courts will have to deal with a backlog of fraud cases
Fraudsters are taking advantage of the pandemic and the effective shut down of the Scottish criminal justice system, according to a big four accountancy firm.
KPMG’s Fraud Barometer reveals just one case of alleged fraud valued at more than £100,000 in the whole of last year as the system ground almost to a halt.
By comparison Scottish fraud cases in 2019 were valued at more than £15.6 million.
Six months ago KPMG said there were no high-value cases of fraud going through Scotland’s court system and warned that the country could see a “tsunami of cases” as the courts reopened.
Police Scotland is now warning Scots that they are seeing a significant rise in fraud, driven in-part by COVID-19, as fraudsters use increasingly sophisticated methods to target vulnerable individuals and companies.
Annette Barker, head of forensic at KPMG in Scotland, said: “It’s deeply concerning to see that court delays and closures have effectively shut down the criminal justice system as it attempts to deal with a suspected increase in fraud, driven by people who’ve taken advantage of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Naturally, the pandemic has created a profound degree of uncertainty and challenge, so some cases may not have been reported and there could be delays in aspects of information being shared with the public.
“However, it goes without saying that 2021 will be an incredibly challenging year for the Scottish courts as they try to wrestle with a major backlog in cases. Regardless of the lack of cases coming to courts it is important for individuals and organisations to remain vigilant in their fight against fraud.”
Scotland’s only high-profile fraud case involved a Crown Office worker who was in charge of evidence at the Procurator Fiscal’s office. The 34-year-old was jailed for three years and nine months after it emerged she had stolen nearly £92,000 and drugs worth more than £147,720 between 2011 and 2019.
Across the UK there was a 51% drop in the volume of high profile cases heard – 180 compared to 369 in 2019.
The value of alleged fraud cases reached just under £724m compared to £1.1bn in 2019.