BCL partner John Binns has been quoted in The Telegraph’s article ‘Bankers in line of fire as watchdog cracks down on dirty cash’.
Here’s an extract from the article:
“Staff members in a Natwest branch on the outskirts of Birmingham were stunned when a customer walked in with £700,000 in a black bin liner.
The cash was being deposited by gold dealership Fowler Oldfield. Soon, the branch’s floor-to-ceiling safes were overflowing with bin liners stuffed with notes. The bags burst from being so full, and had to be repacked by staff into hessian sacks.
A month later in October 2015, employees complained to Natwest’s relationship manager they simply could not take any more. The lender’s team said the problem would die down, but it was just the start. Fowler Oldfield continued to deposit jaw-dropping sums of money for the next seven months and by May 2016 had been stashed £6.6m in Walsall.”
“John Binns, partner at BCL Solicitors says it “beggars belief” that a systems failure was blamed and warned individuals would have committed an offence if they failed to report suspicions. But Natwest employees did raise multiple red flags with 11 internal reports logged between November 2012 and June 2016.
They highlighted unusually high volumes of cash passing through accounts, suspicious behaviour by depositors and the money carrying a “prominent smell” – suggesting it was not used for normal business activity. The National Crime Agency at the time said a lot of the money was Scottish bank notes, which may have been related to trade in controlled drugs, according to court documents.
In an ongoing criminal case against Fowler Oldfield, 11 individuals have entered guilty please in connection with cash delivered to Natwest. A trial of another 13 suspects is listed for April 2022. Binns says: “If they hadn’t reported it, that would be an offence. It seems in the Natwest case that the grounds for suspicion did go up the chain. It was reported internally, more than once – and someone higher up has convinced themselves there was nothing to worry about. Something about the system has meant that it’s nobody’s fault. That beggars belief.””