Commercial and Cyber Fraud: A Legal Guide to Justice for Businesses

by Mark Rowe

Author: Ian Smith and David Shepherd

ISBN No: 9781526509147

Review date: 23/02/2024

No of pages: 223

Publisher: Bloomsbury Professional

Publisher URL:

Year of publication: 25/11/2019




Books about countering fraud, as reviewed here over the years, tend to be written by specialists, people who go after fraud, whether public or private; they’re internal or external auditors, or investigators. Some books are outstanding, such as by Mike Comer and Nigel Iyer, to name two. But no matter how good they are at their job, and describing the subject, they have their own perspective. Comer, for instance, is (with some wit) wary of legal people, as he has met them in the courtroom. Yet if you want to trace and seek to recover stolen assets, as a victim of fraud, you may want to seek a fraud lawyer. But which one, and why? And like any service, will it be value for money?

As an aside, see page 30 in the December 2019 print issue of Professional Security magazine, from a talk at the London Fraud Forum (LFF) 13th annual conference in October; about doing business in the CIS states, and going after fraudsters there.

Of the authors, Ian Smith is a barrister, while David Shepherd was a businessman who was a victim of fraud who gained compensation through the civil courts. He changed career to academia and now lectures on fraud and corruption at the University of Portsmouth.

That may explain why the authors at the very start describe their guide as ‘victim-centred’, and indeed their book fully explains what a victim can do, to gain justice. The authors though have sold themselves short, because the book is also of use to the private investigator, police, security manager and the legal sector in general.

It may be stating the obvious to say that the law can be a dry subject, which can be understandable in the name of accuracy. The authors have shown their grasp of the subject by laying out plain, real-world advice. They warn in as many words that a lawyer is no more a white knight that the victim of crime can put their trust in than the policeman. As so often in life, you get out what you put in (‘the more you put in, the more efficient the lawyer will be, the better your case and the lower the cost’). As that implies, the authors are alert to the purpose of going after the fraudsters; to get at least some of your lost money or goods back: “There really is no point in a pyrrhic victory whereby you get a judgment for liability (win your case) but you cannot enforce it (get your money back).” And the authors do point out that if you lose your case, ‘you may end up with less than nothing’. It’s an unfair world, then; but then if life were fair, you would not have been defrauded in the first place.

While the victim does have options, as the authors set out early on – complain to the police, make an insurance claim, try for your money back from your bank, or even do nothing – as the authors state, all too often, victims find themselves on a ‘merry go round’. As the book blankly states, ‘fraud is not a priority for the police’. In a couple of pages, for example, the authors forensically take apart the Action Fraud service, whereby cases are taken nationally and passed to a police force ‘if enforcement is viable’. Of the 264,000 genuine fraud reports recorded by Action Fraud in the year to March 2017, typically from businesses, 6400 people were charged and 1132 people were sent to prison. You can do the maths about the chances of the average complaint going anywhere; the authors do some maths for you.

The book takes you through the subject in a sensible and masterly way – first definitions and whether and how to investigate (because you get nowhere without evidence – a confession from the fraudster is not as obvious a result as you may think); then deciding your aims and options; then choosing a lawyer, and what they will do – securing assets in the civil courts, and if a case makes it to a criminal court. The book closes with a chapter on international cases. As the LFF heard, a fraudster in a business in one country can easily set up bank accounts in another and park assets – a yacht, property, luxury cars and other goods – in yet others. The final, and far from the only, sobering point in the book is that internationally it’s ‘seriously difficult to navigate’, and victims have to ask if it’s worth spending money ‘chasing people and assets that are elusive’.

The same could be said overall; settling your claim is not so much about right or wrong but about doing a deal, making a compromise (a ‘settlement agreement’). And a day in court, maybe after months of work, is stressful; the authors liken it to a fight.

While the content is impeccable and important, a word about the style of the book. It could easily have been hard to digest, purely because there’s so much to take in. But threaded through the book are shaded first-person comments from ‘a fraud lawyer’ that help to leaven the text. Having become a victim of crime, reading tens of thousands of words about it may be unappealing; but if you want to recover something, let alone go after that intangible thing ‘justice’ this book is a worthwhile read, even for the quite steep cover price for a paperback. It’s not so steep, compared with the cost of a lawyer per hour.


1. Discovery, first reactions and investigations
2. Objectives and options
3. Choosing, using and paying for lawyers
4. Tracing and securing assets in the civil courts
5. Civil court claims
6. Criminal investigations and criminal court prosecutions
7. International cases and enforcement


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