The Serious Fraud Office (SFO) has arrested seven individuals and carried out searches across nine sites, as it announces the launch of a criminal investigation into collapsed law firm Axiom Ince and £66m of missing client money.
Over 80 SFO investigators, accompanied by Metropolitan Police officers, arrived at locations in the South East of England to bring individuals in for questioning and search for potential evidence.
Axiom Ince stopped trading last month when approximately £66m in client money was found to be missing from its accounts and had been ‘spent’. Investigators will also examine how funds passed from the firm’s client accounts with Barclays to the State Bank of India to fund these purchases.
Axiom Ince was founded in May, when law firm Axiom DWFM purchased corporate and commercial law firm Ince Group, as it was set to enter administration. Two months later Axiom Ince then also bought struggling insurance law firm Plexus LLP.
When the Solicitors Regulation Authority shut Axiom Ince in October, the firm operated 14 branches in England and Wales and employed over 1400 staff.
Due to the complexity of the alleged fraud, the Metropolitan Police referred the case to the SFO; the two organisations will continue to work closely together on the investigation.