A fraud case, or a fraud trial?
adapted from an original article by: Tara Majumdar
Republished: 4WardEver UK – August 2010
Updates on this case will be listed at the foot of this item
On June 5th 2008, Mr Gautam Majumdar was given a custodial sentence of seven and a half years and confiscation proceedings totalling £572,815 for conspiracy to defraud. His co-defendants, two other senior executives at RBG Resources a London-based metals group, were sentenced to nine and a half years and eight and a half years with separate confiscation proceedings initiated against them. Mr Majumdar had maintained his innocence throughout the process and appealed both his conviction and sentence in May 2010, but was refused leave to appeal on both counts.
The fraud was one of the largest cases handled by the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) in recent times, and was focussed around more than £300 million which was not paid to bank creditors following the collapse of a network of bogus companies associated with RBG and its US company, Allied Deals Incorporated, that had been used as a ruse to advance money from banks.
Mr. Majumdar’s close friends and supporters believe his conviction and subsequent sentence does not accurately reflect the nature of the case against him. During the trial, they maintained that certain provisions were not in place to allow the right decision to be made by the jurors.
Successive reviews of the case by the Court of Appeal have also not sufficiently taken into account the weaknesses in the initial trial. As a result, this has led to Mr. Majumdar’s wrongful conviction in the face of compelling evidence that should have resulted in his acquittal.
In addition, his supporters believe the case raises some pertinent points regarding the effectiveness of jury trials in complex fraud cases. This should be noted for the future to ensure that justice can be appropriately implemented in an area of the law which has undergone significant change in recent times but is nevertheless considered the ‘untalked of crime’1 for the amount of public scrutiny it receives.
The trial of Mr. Majumdar and his co-defendants took place between September 2007 and April 2008. The complexity of the case was reflected in the length and breadth of the trial which consisted of 111 days in court with fifty-four witnesses appearing for the Prosecution and seven for the Defence.
The strongest statement made by a witness against Mr. Majumdar, was provided by a key defendant in the corresponding US trial who had entered into a plea bargain with the American authorities, requiring him to give evidence in the UK. The witness was an important conspirator in the same fraud by the US sister company. Prior to giving evidence against Mr. Majumdar, the witness had been indicted for perjury and had repeatedly lied to the US investigators.
The witness’ statement against Mr. Majumdar was based on his recollection of a one-to-one, unsubstantiated conversation he had supposedly had with him in 2002. Certain accusations made against Mr. Majumdar in his statement were also proven to be false.
Another witness brought by the Prosecution, was the Company Secretary who claimed that Mr. Majumdar had ‘lied to her’ regarding administrative issues unrelated to the fraud. Once again, the trial judge did not provide a categorical instruction to the jury that this matter should not be held against Mr. Majumdar as it was unrelated to crimes he was accused of.
As a result Mr. Majumdar’s supporters believe the Crown utilised a number of unsafe witness statements against him which the trial judge did not suitably highlight in his instructions to the jury.
Given the technicalities associated with this evidence, it was necessary that a clear direction was provided to the jury requiring them to make a distinction between Mr. Majumdar’s proximity to the fraud and his alleged role as an active party. No such instruction or direction was provided during the trial. This was crucial to the difference between Mr. Majumdar and his co-defendants. It was also undoubtedly a factor that had influenced the outcome of the civil action brought by the company liquidators against the defendants shortly after the fraud was uncovered in 2002. The Civil Action against Mr Majumdar was discontinued in 2003, while it was successfully prosecuted against the other two defendants resulting in their bankruptcy.
Following his conviction, Mr. Majumdar has been held in a number of different institutions including HMP Wandsworth, a high-security prison, despite his classification as a low-risk prisoner.
He has used his time to enrol as a mentor to other inmates, specifically providing practical assistance for those unable to read and write. Now in open conditions, he was responsible for inducting new inmates and is now a volunteer advisor at the local Citizens Advice Bureau. Throughout the trial and his following imprisonment, Mr. Majumdar has cooperated and assisted the authorities without complaint.
Whilst several of the accused still remain at large outside the UK and the other defendants had their impounded passports prior to the trial, Mr. Majumdar was allowed to travel and even reside in another country freely. Nevertheless, committed to clearing his name he returned to the UK to be charged and continued to work abroad until the commencement of the trial.
Mr. Majumdar was denied leave to appeal on May, 21st 2010, and ordered to serve another 20 months. Despite Mr. Majumdar’s unfailing cooperation throughout, and no indication that he ever planned to violate the terms of his bail agreement, the SFO has also seized sizable assets in excess of £600, 000.
To ensure that justice is served, Mr. Majumdar’s supporters intend to submit his case for review by the Criminal Cases Review Commission (CCRC). Nevertheless, after 26 months of silence they also hope to raise the profile of the case so that future trials of a similar nature are effectively conducted and do not result in the wrongful conviction of innocent individuals.
Three NRIs sentenced for fraud of £300 million
6 June 2008
Directors jailed for $700m fraud
5 June 2008