Canary Wharf in clamp-down on scams duping investors out of £1.7bn
PUBLISHED: 07:00 31 March 2015 | UPDATED: 08:28 31 March 2015
An operation to clamp down on white collar scams being run from short-term rented office addresses in Canary Wharf in under way by police and trading standards officials.
Tricksters are using prestige addresses as cover for scams which last year alone duped 5,000 investors out of a cool £1.7 billion, it has emerged.
Investment fraud victims are duped with the promise to “make a killing” on returns for investments—when in reality their cash is being siphoned off to pay for criminals’ lavish lifestyles of luxury.
Officers have called at several premises in Canary Wharf and across London in a drive to uncover organised crime and have contacted landlords and office provider agencies who may unknowingly be letting prestige addresses to tricksters.
“Signs that an office is being used for fraudulent activity include companies making up-front cash payments for lettings,” a Tower Hamlets trading standards spokesman explained. “They take short-term leases, have unusual hours of business and don’t displaying their name in reception areas.
“The people running them tend to be young, brash and unruly, using false names for themselves and the company they are supposed to represent—and spend lots of time reading from pre-prepared scripts.”
Staff in officers visited by the police and trading standards were warned of “the consequences of being found to be a part of a criminal operation” offering bogus investment opportunities in commodities such as art, wine, diamonds and precious metals.
Operation Broadway has been set-up by Tower Hamlets Trading Standards, Metropolitan and City Police forces, Tri-Region Scambusters and trading standards from other local authorities across London, backed by the Financial Conduct Authority and HM Revenue and Customs.
It is aimed at busting investor scams by checking on offices suspected of being used as cover.
Officers distributed thousands of leaflets outside Canary Wharf Underground station and other transport hubs during morning rush-hour and the lunchtime break in last week’s day of action.
The leaflet had an appeal for genuine office workers to look out for criminal groups operating in their buildings or attempting to pressure people into handing over their savings.
Operation Broadway is also working with the financial services industry to stop fraudsters gaining access to the facilities they need to run their operations.