Who? James Watson, associate in the business crime group at Mishcon de Reya.
Why is he in the news? Alongside Mishcon’s Alison Levitt QC and Gareth Minty, represented one of the defendants in a recent high-profile money laundering trial. After a nine-week trial at Southwark Crown Court, both defendants were unanimously acquitted of a money laundering offence.
This was the third in a series of cases in Operation Steamroller, which is believed to be the largest boiler room prosecution ever pursued by a UK authority. Trials in 2013 and 2014 resulted in the convictions of nine other individuals.
In this most recent trial, the defendants were accused by the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) of channelling funds that they knew or suspected were the proceeds of that boiler room fraud through companies registered in Belize and Mauritius and managed by them through a fiduciary services company in Hong Kong.
Thoughts on the case: ‘This prosecution centred on events that took place between 2003 and 2008, but the arrest of our client did not happen until 2014, many years later and after our client had retired. This delay presented a huge difficulty for us since we did not have access to a complete set of records, as no search was carried out of the Hong Kong offices by the SFO: and more generally for our client to try and remember accurately the details of crucial meetings that took place such a long time ago.’
Dealing with the media: ‘The team is well used to commenting publicly on high-profile matters. The nature of this case, however, meant that we did not actively seek publicity for our client or formally respond to media enquiries.’
Why become a lawyer? ‘Every case, especially in business crime, is different. I have dealt with counterfeit wedding dresses, imported sports cars that didn’t exist and lawyers who didn’t pay their taxes. I never know what the issues will be in the next case and it is exciting to find out.’
Career high: ‘It has to be this case. The team, led by Alison Levitt QC, were all passionate about our client’s defence. After a lengthy trial, the jury returned their verdict in such a short time.’
Career low: ‘Those, thankfully infrequent, times a jury returns a guilty verdict.’