Gary Bell QC - Crime
Gary Bell is a natural jury advocate. Whilst at University he was the English Universities debating champion and won many national and international debating competitions. As a result of this success he was selected for the prestigious English Speaking Union debating tour of the USA and spent three months visiting 35 universities in 30 different states. Whilst in Los Angeles he was head hunted by a leading commercial law firm and spent a year with them between 1988 and 1989 in the business litigation department.
He then returned to England and was called to the bar. Anxious to be a trial advocate he chose a career as a criminal barrister but with his commercial background he soon carved out a niche as a specialist fraud practitioner.
He became a QC in 2012 and is instructed by solicitors from all over the country in the most complex and serious fraud cases. He also acts for defendants in major drugs conspiracies and other multi-handed crimes, particularly with a financial element.
His practice is 100% defence.
Many of his cases involve over 100,000 pages of evidence, millions of pounds of losses and are listed to last several months. They require exhaustive preparation, attention to detail, working as part of a team and courtroom advocacy.
In view of their size and complexity Gary Bell generally only does three to four cases a year.
He is acknowledged as an expert in financial crime and the Proceeds of Crime Act and regularly gives training seminars on the law relating to all aspects of fraud to other barristers, solicitors and judges. He recently lectured Chinese government officials on the implications of the Bribery Act. \
He is consulted on aspects of criminal law facing their clients by commercial silks and magic circle commercial firms. Clients of magic circle firms facing criminal fraud charges are often referred to Gary Bell by them.
He also appears in contested matters before the tax tribunal.
He is often consulted by major financial institutions on the implications of the Bribery Act and Deferred Prosecution Agreements.
He is currently advising a Nigerian Company involved in the Oil and Gas Industry and their proposed partner, a Korean Manufacturer, on international contract law and compliance with bribery and corruption legislation which will satisfy the 82 major international companies they are seeking to do business with in Nigeria.
He accepts direct access instructions.
In the light of recent proposed changes in relation to legally aided cases Gary Bell regrets that he will, as a general rule, no longer accept legally aided instructions. However, he will still accept legally aided cases in exceptional circumstances on a case by case basis.
He will always give honest and robust advice to the lay client about the strength of the case against them, and if a client wants to explore a potential guilty plea he will negotiate with the prosecution to secure the most favourable basis of plea possible. He is happiest, however, in the trial arena. If the client wants a trial Gary Bell will give the client a trial.
R v N (2013) – N was tried along with six other defendants on a conspiracy to launder ten million pounds and send it to China. She had opened up two bank accounts and a foreign exchange account through which over two million pounds was laundered. After a six week trial she was found not guilty by the jury. Five of the other six defendants were convicted.
R v K (2013) – Acted for the first defendant of 6 who had pleaded guilty in the face of overwhelming evidence to masterminding a tax fraud running to over seven million pounds. The prosecution claimed as part of the confiscation proceedings that he had hidden the money and it should be confiscated as a hidden asset. The confiscation proceedings were extremely complicated and took over three years to litigate. The sticking point between prosecution and defence was the whereabouts of three quarters of a million pounds which had been withdrawn from banks in cash and disappeared – thus becoming a hidden asset of K. At the confiscation proceedings it was shown that K had accounted for his income and expenditure and the court concluded that K had no hidden assets. The prosecution attempted to confiscate seven million pounds. The final order was £300,000.
R v F (2012) – F, the first defendant, had pleaded guilty to a conspiracy to defraud financial institutions of a huge amount of money through his company. He had made full admissions in interview. His personal benefit was found to be a hundred and thirty million pounds. The confiscation proceedings were fully contested and included issues as to the status of his wife’s inheritance and preferential shares to the value of millions of pounds redeemed by his brothers on F’s authority after he knew that his company was trading insolvent. On both contested issues in the confiscation proceedings F was successful and the result was an order against the defendant of only a hundred and fifty thousand pounds.
R v W (2012) – W was alleged to have been involved in a conspiracy to commit mortgage fraud with eighteen co-defendants and a total value of several million pounds. She was also charged with perverting the course of justice. There was overwhelming evidence that she was guilty of perverting the course of justice and a guilty plea to that count was negotiated on a very limited basis and on condition that the mortgage fraud conspiracy would be dropped against her and there would be no confiscation proceedings against her and no application for costs. For the perverting the course of justice count she received a non-custodial sentence.
R v Y – (2012) Acted for a defendant charged with being involved in a large scale conspiracy to defraud investors in internet companies with five other defendants. It was submitted that there was no evidence of dishonesty against Y. These submissions were successful and not guilty verdicts were entered.
R v T (2011) - Acted for a solicitor charged with a five million pound intellectual property fraud. T was alleged to have fraudulently set up shadow companies to transfer millions of pounds worth of assets belonging to an Australian businessman who was ignorant of the transfers. The Australian businessman was the prosecution’s main witness. Served alongside the case papers were disks served as unused material and which contained tens of thousands of pages of material. After a thorough analysis of the unused material – none of which had been read by the prosecution, Gary Bell drafted a skeleton argument which, with attached exhibits, ran to over a hundred pages. In the skeleton it was alleged that the exhibits proved the Australian businessman knew full well about the transfers and had sanctioned them. It was therefore submitted that it would be an abuse of process to rely on his evidence. The prosecution agreed with the submission shortly after they received it and offered no evidence against T. Not guilty verdicts were then returned.
R v D – (2011) D was a financial broker charged with masterminding and financing a conspiracy to commit mortgage fraud to the value of several million pounds. The case included a large number of buyers and sellers of property, but none of the large number of solicitors who had sanctioned and used the scheme had been charged. A legal submission was made that it would be an abuse of process to try D without also charging and putting on trial a large number of solicitors. The prosecution were ordered by the judge to draft a response justifying their approach and setting out in detail what their case was against D. They failed to lodge a response and not guilty verdicts were entered for D.
R v T (2011) – T was charged with conspiracy to launder a large amount of money which was alleged to have been the proceeds of drug trafficking. An extremely limited basis of plea was negotiated in relation to only a small amount of money which resulted in her not going to prison and facing no confiscation proceedings nor any application for costs.
R v M (2011) - M was convicted after a trial, along with all of the other defendants, of being involved in a multi-million pound mortgage fraud. At the confiscation proceedings the benefit figure for M was over £3 million and M had precious few assets other than the mortgage free family home. It was submitted that it would be unjust to confiscate the home as it was a mortgage free asset his wife had brought to the marriage. This submission was accepted by the prosecution and M and his wife were able to keep their home.
R v B (2010) - B was caught with 14 kilograms of heroin and pleaded guilty on the basis he was a courier, being paid a few hundred pounds for delivering it. He pleaded guilty on that basis and received a sentence of four years imprisonment. The prosecution appealed this as unduly lenient but lost the appeal. At the confiscation proceedings the prosecution alleged the benefit figure was over a million pounds (ie: the value of the heroin) and that as the defendant owned a large property portfolio that should be confiscated as realisable assets. Gary Bell argued that the benefit figure should be limited to the few hundred pounds B had been paid as a courier and not the full, one million pound plus, value of the heroin. This was accepted by the judge after full argument and an order for confiscation in relation to the 14 kilograms of heroin was made in the sum of £200. The prosecution appealed this decision but the Court of Appeal rejected their appeal.
R v P (2010) - A multi-million pound boiler room fraud involving over 100,000 pages of evidence and five defendants. Shortly before the trial the defendant absconded and was tried in his absence. P was alleged to have run a boiler room in Spain selling worthless shares to hapless investors for millions of pounds. Two other defendants in the trial were also alleged to have run boiler rooms in Spain. After a three month trial the other two defendants were convicted by the jury but P was found not guilty.
R v H (2010) – A client charged as part of a large scale conspiracy to defraud the revenue. He was acquitted after a legal submission. He also stood trial with four other defendants for a related attempted murder. The other four defendants were found guilty by the jury but H was acquitted after an 8 week trial.
R v B (2009) – B was charged with being involved a large multi-handed mortgage fraud. After submissions made to the prosecution they offered no evidence and a not guilty verdict was returned.
R v W (2009) – W was charged as being involved as part of a conspiracy to commit a Ponzi fraud, defrauding investors of a total of twenty six million pounds by marketing a scheme to turn rock into gold. There was compelling evidence of his guilt and he was advised to plead guilty. An extremely limited basis of plea was negotiated with the prosecution based upon W only knowing that the investment scheme was fraudulent very late in the day. Other defendants had a trial and were convicted by the jury. W was the only defendant of eight to receive a non-custodial sentence. His confiscation proceedings were limited to thirty thousand pounds.
R v K (2009) - Acted for the first defendant of two in an £11 million MTIC fraud at the Southwark Crown Court. The case was prepared for trial but the co-defendant then pleaded guilty and gave a statement in preparation for giving Queen's evidence against K. A guilty plea by K was then negotiated on an extremely limited basis which included no costs and no confiscation proceedings, in spite of the fact he had the stolen £11 million sitting in his bank account and a mortgage free house worth £3 million.
R v C (2008) – A large scale drugs conspiracy where C was the first defendant of 11 alleged to have been involved in the wholesale supply of heroin across the country. C was the main focus of the six month investigation where two undercover police officers lived as a pretend man and wife in C’s community. The operation resulted in twenty eight arrests. Most of the defendants pleaded guilty in the face of overwhelming evidence but six of them stood trial. After a three month trial the jury convicted all of the defendants but couldn’t agree on a verdict for C. He was tried again on his own and, after a two month trial, acquitted unanimously by the jury.
R v A – (2008) - A major long firm fraud involving seven defendants accused of receiving millions of pounds from hapless suppliers. The case was listed for trial but on the day of trial six defendants pleaded guilty, leaving A to stand trial alone. A submission of no case to answer was made and acceded to by the prosecution and A was found not guilty.
R v T (2008) – An accountant alleged to be part of a conspiracy with six other defendants to commit tax fraud. T’s role was the alleged preparation and submission of fraudulent accounts for a firm of solicitors. T was acquitted after legal submission that not to charge a seventh co-defendant amounted to an abuse of process.
R v G – (2008) A car trader accused of being involved in an importation tax fraud conspiracy with ten other defendants by importing cars for pretended supply to disabled customers (which are VAT free) and thus defrauding the revenue of millions of pounds. Amongst the large amount of unused material served were documents which showed that other parties to the conspiracy had been granted immunity from prosecution in return for COP 9 admissions and repayment of the tax owed. It was submitted that, in the circumstances, it was an abuse of process to try G. This submission was accepted by the prosecution and no evidence was offered against G.
R v K (2007) – K was charged with a conspiracy to defraud the revenue of over a million pounds through a VAT carousel fraud via Poland. Disclosure requests were made asking for material the prosecution were unwilling to disclose. An application for the material was listed before the court and, rather than disclose the material, the prosecution offered no evidence against K.
R v N (2007) – N was the first of eleven defendants facing a conspiracy to dump millions of items of mail, having been paid to deliver them. She was also charged with bribing a co-defendant to take the blame. She was advised to plead guilty on ma limited basis, involving no admission that she dumped mail or bribed the co-defendant, and received a short prison sentence. As part of the plea bargain it was agreed that there would be no confiscation proceedings and no costs would be applied for.
R v M (2007) – M was found to have benefitted from fraud to the tune of six million three hundred thousand pounds. He faced confiscation proceedings where the prosecution alleged he had hidden the entire amount. Gary Bell was brought in at that stage to deal with the confiscation proceedings. After a complicated audit which took two years to complete every penny was accounted for and no order was made against the defendant for any of the aforementioned sum of money.
R v S (2006) – S had pleaded guilty to an international conspiracy to defraud suppliers of sham companies he had set up. The losses ran into millions of pounds. The evidence of his involvement was unanswerable but a very limited basis of plea was negotiated with the prosecution. In the confiscation proceedings the prosecution claimed a benefit figure and realisable asset figure of millions of pounds. After a contested confiscation hearing his realisable assets were found to be one hundred pounds.
Of the 24 cases listed above 14 were contested by the defendants. Thirteen of these defendants were found not guilty, one was found guilty.
Of the remaining ten cases nine of the sentences were dealt with by Gary Bell. Three defendants received non-custodial sentences and the rest received prison sentences with credit given by the judge for the guilty pleas and favourable bases negotiated on their behalves by Gary Bell. In all nine of those cases either all of the defendants pleaded guilty or some others had a trial and were found guilty by the jury.
Eleven defendants faced confiscation proceedings. No order was made against five of those defendants and in relation to the other six all confiscation issues which were disputed were won by the defendants. One of these six received an order of a hundred pounds; two were allowed to keep their family homes; one was found to have no hidden assets and the remaining two won their confiscation proceedings where new law was made.
Gary Bell is happy to have a preliminary conversation with any prospective client with a view to seeing if they would be happy working together.