Surge in fraud as hard times encourage investors and firms to drop their guard

FRAUD is hitting record levels in the UK, with over 160 cases of serious fraud with charges of more than &pound;100,000 during the first half of this year, according to the latest barometer from business advisers KPMG.<br /><br />The half-year figures are the highest recorded since KPMG began the survey 21 years ago. Together the cases had a value of &pound;636m which, if repeated in the second half, will smash the &pound;1.2bn record for the highest value of annual fraud recorded by the survey in 1995.<br /><br />Professional gangs were responsible for the bulk of the fraud, with 70 cases worth around &pound;450m, and their main victims were investors who suffered &pound;320m of fraud. The bulk of this was just one case &ndash; the attempted &pound;200m fraudulent sale of the London&rsquo;s Ritz hotel. <br /><br />Company managers were responsible for &pound;150m of fraud against their own employers in 32 cases, while the government suffered &pound;150m of fraud, mostly in the form of tax and duty evasion and fraudulent benefit claims. The financial sector was the biggest single victim by number of frauds, with 44 per cent or &pound;111m.<br /><br />KPMG Forensic partner Hitesh Patel said: &ldquo;These figures are bad, but the worst is yet to come. It will be a number of years before the impact of the recession fully feeds through into the fraud statistics.&rdquo;