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The Serious Fraud Office’s (SFO) use of a former solicitor – described by a judge as a “liar” and a “thief” – as a leading witness in its prosecution of an $11.5m (£6.1m) money laundering scam has led to the collapse of the case, which cost millions of taxpayers’ money.
The case concerned the alleged laundering of proceeds from a fraudulent high-yield investment scheme through the client accounts of several law firms, including the now defunct Swepstone Walsh.
Judge Fingret ruled at the Southwark Crown Court that there was no case to answer after finding that the SFO’s key prosecution witness, John Thomson, was a “liar, a thief, a forger, a contemner and a collaborator in the removal of potentially relevant documents”.
He added: “The credibility of the prosecution witnesses [including Thomson] is at the root of this case.”
A second witness, James Robinson, a former lawyer at Swepstones, could also not be relied on as a “credible witness”, Judge Fingret held.
When the SFO used Thomson as its key witness in last year’s trial, he was serving a suspended sentence, having pleaded guilty to stealing client funds.
“I go further and say that it’s abundantly clear to me that any evidence relating to, or emanating from, Thomson’s office is tainted and totally discredited,” added the judge.
Thomson used to act for one of the defendants in the action, Dariusz Maruszak, a Polish national who was extradited from the US for the trial. The five defendants were charged with various offences around the laundering of the $11.5m. All charges have been dropped.
Maruszak’s counsel, George Carter-Stephenson QC of 25 Bedford Row (formerly 3 Gray’s Inn Square), was instrumental in discrediting Thomson. Richard Cornthwaite of Garstangs was the instructing solicitor.
Carter-Stephenson said: “There was never any dispute about the route the money took. What was in dispute was who was carrying out the transactions.”
An SFO statement pointed to the fact that Judge Fingret also said that the “case was scrupulously investigated, meticulously prepared and fairly and thoroughly presented to the Crown”.