Mishcons brings in SAS to attack investigations

Former SAS, police and government investigators steer the line between 'evidence' and 'intelligence'

Mishcon de Reya regularly uses a crack team of former SAS and other special force personnel to carry out investigatory work for clients including Microsoft and the Scandinavian Den Norske Bank, The Lawyer can reveal.
The private investigation company Maxima Group includes former members of the naval wing of the SAS, the Special Boat Section, as well as ex-police, Customs & Excise and Inland Revenue investigators.
Mishcons frequently warns judges before the beginning of cases that, during later proceedings, it may use evidence gathered by Maxima, that may contain grey areas or be challengeable. At such meetings, lawyers inform the judge how the evidence has been gathered, such as by searches of refuse and computers.
Kasra Nouroozi, a fraud lawyer at Mishcons, said: “There's often such an overwhelming amount of evidence that the judge says, on balance, the evidence is so powerful that despite the grey areas which can be construed, you are entitled to the order to proceed.”
The firm does “extensive audits” of the techniques of investigators before using them, he said adding: “Investigations of fraud might encroach on people's privacy, but the idea is that it's for the good of all.”
The former special force soldiers build up profiles of individuals who are accused of serious breaches of intellectual property (IP) rights, piracy, infringements and various financial frauds, including corruption within financial institutions.
Within the fraud department, 85 per cent of the work focuses on asset recovery, protection of IP and reputational management.
Mishcons typically uses Maxima, whose chief executive is the former senior Customs & Excise investigator Mike Comer, for a number of large banks, FTSE 100 companies and private organisations.
The company is frequently employed by the firm to carry out anti-counterfeiting and copyright protection work for Microsoft in Europe, Africa and the Middle East.
Mishcons said that Maxima's investigators never trespass on private property. A source outside Mishcons, who is familiar with Maxima, said: “Their work is done very quickly, effectively and behind the scenes. They're changing the whole process of investigation and that's why they're so attractive. They get the evidence so quickly that the other side can do nothing but negotiate their way out of it.”
He added: “They might do midnight raids. It's amazing what the directors of companies might leave in their bins. They don't break into premises, but skirt around them.”
Maxima also refers work to Mishcons which spins out of its investigations on behalf of accountancy firms.
Maxima claims to use advanced methods for detecting evidence on computers. Well-known computer expert Ed Wilding is its divisional director of computer forensics, and he tailors detection products to suit different types of investigations.
“These guys have very advanced techniques where almost nothing can be hidden, wiped or destroyed,” said Nouroozi.
Andrew Clark, a forensic expert at PricewaterhouseCoopers, said: “One has to be careful between evidence and intelligence. A lot of the time, people will steer away from military or intelligence organisations because they don't fully appreciate the distinction.
“For instance, bank account information, which is basically intelligence, can be obtained through illegal means.
“This is not as a result of court orders or requests, but involves persuading bank staff members or making inquiries in pubs. Bin rummaging is the other tactic – if the rubbish in the bin is on private property and you steal it, then it's theft.”
However, knowledge of bank account information makes it much easier to determine which accounts should be sought as evidence.