British Lawyer Found Guilty of Tipping Off Client in Money Laundering Investigation
A British lawyer has been found guilty of “tipping off” his client about a money laundering investigation by Britain’s Serious Fraud Office (SFO). William Osmond, 69, informed his client, James Ramsay, in 2018 that the SFO had requested information regarding the purchase of a £8 million ($9.9 million) London property. Osmond then provided a forged engagement letter to SFO investigators, falsely claiming that he had been representing Ramsay’s company, which had provided a £4 million loan for the property purchase, since 2013.
Following a trial at London’s Old Bailey court, Osmond was convicted of one charge of tipping off under the Proceeds of Crime Act and one charge of forgery. He had pleaded not guilty. The judge, Rebecca Trowler, is set to sentence Osmond on November 30.
Prosecutor James Waddington had previously informed jurors that the SFO was investigating the loan provided by Ramsay as part of a broader probe involving Kazakh miner ENRC. ENRC, a former FTSE 100 company, had faced allegations of bribery to secure mining contracts in the Democratic Republic of Congo since 2013. However, the investigation was dropped in August without any charges being filed.
Osmond, the senior partner at Osmond & Osmond, a London-based law firm, was approached by the SFO to gather information about Ramsay and the London property purchase, which was connected to the daughter of one of ENRC’s founders. Despite this, Osmond maintained regular communication with Ramsay regarding the SFO’s inquiries and even traveled to Malta, where Ramsay was residing, shortly after being contacted by the SFO.
The case brings attention to the wider investigation into allegations of corruption against ENRC. The Kazakh miner is currently suing the SFO in relation to the dropped investigation. ENRC has consistently denied any wrongdoing.
The trial and subsequent conviction of William Osmond highlight the seriousness of tipping off, which obstructs the course of justice and undermines the integrity of investigations. By sharing confidential information with his client and providing forged documents to investigators, Osmond interfered with the SFO’s efforts to uncover the truth regarding the money laundering allegations. The sentencing on November 30 will determine the consequences he will face for his actions.
The case also sheds light on the complex probe into ENRC, which has faced scrutiny for its alleged involvement in bribery to secure mining contracts. The investigation’s sudden end without any charges being brought has raised questions about the handling of the case and the reasons behind the decision. ENRC’s ongoing legal battle with the SFO further emphasizes the significance of these allegations and the potential impact on the reputation of the company.
As the trial concludes and the sentencing approaches, the outcome will have implications not only for the individuals involved but also for the broader fight against financial crimes. The case serves as a reminder that the legal system will not tolerate attempts to obstruct investigations, regardless of one’s professional standing. The verdict sends a strong message that such actions will be met with appropriate consequences, safeguarding the integrity of the justice system.
More detail via Reuters here… ( Image via Reuters )