The CPS continues to work with the police and other investigators to prosecute criminal cases involving fraud. In 2019-20, the CPS prosecuted more than 10,000 defendants where fraud and forgery were the principal offence. It also has a dedicated specialist fraud division to deal with serious, complex and difficult cases of fraud that can often result in huge financial loss to victims.
Constituents in West Bromwich East have made me aware of some of the latest scams that criminals are using to exploit the public at this difficult time. They include text messages about covid-related grants and even criminals going door to door pretending to sell vaccine doses. Can my right hon. and learned Friend update us on any discussions she has had with the CPS about these specific types of fraud cases?
I thank my hon. Friend for raising this issue. Crimes where covid is the context for exploitation and fraudulent behaviour are completely sickening. The Director of Public Prosecutions has made it clear in his interim charging protocol that offences related to covid, including fraud, will be prioritised and that the offenders will be prosecuted. The joint inspectorate report commended the CPS’s response to the pandemic, including its ability to move to remote working without any major service interruption. That was noted as a major achievement.
Those who use this pandemic to exploit vulnerable people really are the lowest of the low. In Redcar and Cleveland, we have had a number of examples of fraudsters trying to trick elderly people in particular with fake vaccines and scam NHS emails. What more can the Government do to crack down on those types of criminals?
My hon. Friend is right to raise this sickening trend. The Government are committed to stopping criminals benefiting from their ill-gotten gains. In 2019-20, the CPS successfully used its specialist prosecutors to seize more than £100 million through confiscation orders across all offence types.
Over the pandemic, we have seen scammers claiming to be from Her Majesty’ Revenue and Customs, Royal Mail delivery scams, NatWest urging scam warnings out to its customers and, perhaps the lowest of the low, an NHS vaccine scam. Could my right hon. and learned Friend outline how the CPS is working in partnership with those organisations to tackle fraud?
We are aware that cyber-criminals and fraudsters are attempting to exploit opportunities around the pandemic, as I have said. That is why the Government have invested in the National Economic Crime Centre, which is leading a multi-agency response to tackle serious and organised fraud during the pandemic. The CPS continues to play a key role in this effort, providing early investigative support in serious fraud cases.
At a time when we are hearing about more disturbing cases of fraud, not just against private citizens but against the state and the public purse, will the Attorney General continue to give us information through the House of Commons Library, publicising the success stories of the CPS in following, tackling and prosecuting those fraudsters?
I thank my hon. Friend for his kind wishes. He is right to highlight the successes that the CPS has had in tackling serious fraud. In recent months, the serious fraud division has brought three high-value investment scammers to justice. These include Joseph Lewis, who ran a £20 million Ponzi scheme fraud for a decade and was sentenced to five years and four months’ imprisonment, and Freddy David, an authorised financial consultant who was operating a parallel Ponzi fraud which resulted in a loss of £10.4 million to his victims. He was sentenced to a total of six years in prison and was issued with a confiscation order for just over £1 million.