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20 Jun 2016

Couple Acquitted of Fraud After CPS Case Collapses

This morning Mita Davda and Nelesh Panchal were formally acquitted of fraud after the CPS case against them collapsed. The jury trial was dropped today after the prosecution offered no evidence against the accused. Ms Davda had been charged with fraud over personal expenses of more than £5,000 and recruitment fees paid to Mr Panchal of approximately £135,000. Mr Panchal was charged with money laundering in connection with his receipt of the recruitment fees.

Mita Davda and Nelesh Panchal commented this morning: “Today we have been acquitted and the relief for Nelesh and I is phenomenal. The stress we have endured over the last two years has been unbelievable but we kept the faith. We thank all our friends and family for their support, we are truly blessed. Now, we can get on with our happily married lives.”

The judge was highly critical of the CPS, saying that this was a civil matter which should never have come before the criminal court. Judge Cahill QC commented to the jury this morning: “Some of you during last week may have been sitting there thinking what are we doing here. It will not take you by surprise as this is clearly a civil case, not criminal. In the criminal courts, we have always taken the view people are innocent until proven guilty. This view was clearly not taken by the witness we have heard and in a criminal court it is necessary for a jury to be satisfied beyond reasonable doubt that the people involved acted dishonestly. You also would have to be satisfied the complainant’s evidence is blatantly honest, and not some of it dishonest. As I told you at the start, I am in part referee, to make sure there is a fair trial. After the evidence finished I invited the crown to consider their position. They have done so.”

Ms Davda and Mr Panchal were arrested in March 2014 and were charged a year later. More than two years later, the prosecution have offered “no evidence” against them. The prosecution’s change in position follows one week of trial, in which the court heard Mr Kanji’s evidence against Ms Davda and Mr Panchal. On Friday, at the conclusion of his evidence, the Judge invited the prosecution to review its case and reconsider whether it wished to proceed with this prosecution.

The investigation was initially carried out by the police, however Mr Kanji also instructed a boutique private prosecution firm to assist the police with gathering new evidence and to draft a suggested indictment against Ms Davda and Mr Panchal. That led to a decision by the CPS to charge Ms Davda and Mr Panchal.

Rachel Quickenden, a lawyer at leading criminal and regulatory law firm Corker Binning, acting for Ms Davda and Mr Panchal, said today: “A great deal of time, money and resources have been wasted on this case reaching trial, not to mention the stress which my clients have endured over the last two years. This case demonstrates the dangers in allowing individuals to use the criminal justice system for revenge – and to instruct private prosecution firms to gather evidence and advocate on their behalf to the prosecuting authorities – where the evidence does not properly support a prosecution. The Judge clearly took a very dim view of the quality of the evidence and the credibility and motives of the complainant.”

The case followed a dispute with Ms Davda’s ex-boss, Mark Kanji, then CEO of mobile tech company Apptivation Mobile Ltd. It concerned the payment of expenses to Ms Davda, who was COO of the company, and the payment of recruitment fees to Mr Panchal, who was providing recruitment work for Apptivation. The defence argued that all sums paid to Ms Davda and Mr Panchal were done so in the knowledge and with the authorisation of Mr Kanji.

This article was originally published in The Barrister.

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