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Tipping off - an offence we all know about but do not see in the courts


A solicitor' tipped off' a client about a Serious Fraud Office probe and provided a forged letter of engagement to investigators

William Osmond, co-founder of London firm Osmond & Osmond, is alleged to

  • Have told his client about the fact of an investigation
  • 'By engaging in regular, frequent communication' for five months after he was served with a notice to provide documents to the SFO in June 2018.

He is also accused of

  • Presenting a forged letter of engagement between his firm and his client in order to induce an SFO investigator to accept it as genuine between June and October of the same year.

Osmond, 67, appeared at Westminster Magistrates' Court today charged with

  • One count of disclosing that an investigation into alleged offence under the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 was being considered and
  • One count of forgery.
  • He indicated a not guilty plea to both charges.

John McGuinness QC, prosecuting, told the court:

  • 'The defendant is a senior partner in a London firm of solicitors and, in June 2018, he on behalf of the firm was served by an officer of the Serious Fraud Office with a notice under section 2 of the Criminal Justice Act 1987 seeking, pursuant to that notice, information relating to a client of the defendant's.
  • 'It is the prosecution case that, between 7 June and approximately five months later in November 2018, throughout that period the defendant tipped off his client by engaging in regular, frequent communication with him concerning the content of the section 2 notice.
  • 'During the course of the period from June to November 2018, when documents were being provided pursuant to the section 2 notice, the SFO were pressing for documentation relating to the instruction of a company in respect of a property transaction and wanted to see, among other documents, the letter of engagement engaging Mr Osmond and his firm to act on behalf of that company.'

McGuiness added

  • That the document which was provided to the SFO' purported to be a copy of a letter of engagement dated in October 2013', which he said was a date 'just before the relevant transaction'.

The prosecution alleges that

  • The letter of engagement 'had in fact been created by Mr Osmond in the period of June to November 2018, when the SFO were pressing for information', the court heard.

Osmond, of Taunton, Somerset, was bailed to appear at Southwark Crown Court for a plea and trial preparation hearing on 11 April.