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06 Feb 2018

Ben Henriques comments on former footballers convicted of £5m coaching fraud in The Times Law Brief

Two former footballers including a Wales international are likely to receive lengthy prison sentences after being convicted of a complicated fraud yesterday, 5 February 2018.

Mark Aizlewood, 57, who won 39 caps for Wales, was found guilty of defrauding the taxpayer of £5 million after cheating thousands of young people out of proper training through a fraudulent apprenticeship scheme.

Ben Henriques, Associate at Corker Binning, commented:

“This is another instance of prosecutors tenaciously pursuing high net worth individuals who flout the law for personal gain. It was a vast prosecution, involving millions of documents and hundreds of interviews – the resources which the SFO must have poured into this case will have been huge. Whilst this case has made headlines as only sport can, football is just the latest area to see this kind of large-scale prosecution.

It is interesting to consider whether Unexplained Wealth Orders (which came into force last month) would have been used in this case. Such orders can be used to require individuals to explain the sources of their wealth and, if no explanation is forthcoming, surrender it.

The not guilty verdicts in this case are interesting. Whilst all the defendants were convicted of (or pleaded to) at least one offence, two counts resulted in acquittal. Jack Harper was cleared of one count of conspiracy to commit fraud by false representation, while Mr Aizlewood was found not guilty of one count of conspiracy to commit fraud by false representation. Clearly, the jury carefully considered each count individually (as they are required to) and did not take a broad-brush approach, supporting the use of juries in this kind of case.

Undoubtedly, these offences will result in high sentences. Victims of large fraud cases may be vulnerable, numerous or sympathetic, but it is unusual for them to be all three at once. Unlike crimes which target banks or other large organisations, these offences resulted in demonstrable and serious detriment to vulnerable youths.”

Read the full article in The Times Law Brief here, behind a paywall.