Accountant struck off following crime probe
An accountant whose practice was raided as part of an organised crime probe has been struck off.
Thomas Anthony Matterson was reported to his professional body after police searched his office during a money laundering investigation. Officers from Northumbria Police's economic crime unit had concerns that the 55-year-old chartered accountant's conduct had been "unethical". They also alleged the firm he was working for, Sunderland-based Otax Ltd, did not have procedures in place to identify and report any "suspicious" activity being carried out by their clients or employees. The matter was subsequently referred to the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW), which launched an immediate investigation. But Mr Matterson, of Tunstall Terrace, New Silksworth, Sunderland, failed to cooperate with their enquiries, ignoring letters and other correspondence.
This led to him being brought before the ICAEW's Disciplinary Committee, where he was banned from the organisation for life and fined £3,000. He was also made to pay £1,415 costs. The ruling means Mr Matterson is prevented from operating as a chartered accountant and prevents any firm he works for from advertising his services as such.
At the time the matter was reported to the ICAEW, Mr Matterson was operating as a sole practitioner but Companies House records show he was previously a director of Otax, based on St Mark's Road, Sunderland. Another of the company's directors, Kishor Doshi, of Dunelm South, Sunderland, is himself facing a criminal charge of making a disclosure that prejudiced a police investigation.
Mr Doshi, 59, who is listed as a property developer, appeared before Sunderland Magistrates' Court earlier this year, when his case was adjourned. He was arrested as part of an investigation into claims a well-known security firm operated without a licence. Ernest Bewick, 59, of Wheatsheaf Court, North Haven, Sunderland, has been charged with an offence under the Private Security Industry Act. It is alleged the director of Bewick Security Ltd, which provides a large number of door staff to pubs and clubs in the city and surrounding areas, was conducting his business without a permit.
Mr Matterson resigned as a director of Otax, which provides accounting and bookkeeping services, in April 2009 but was still carrying out work for them when his office was searched in November of that year. The referral to the ICAEW was made by Northumbria Police's dedicated forensic accountant Matt Hall, who assists detectives investigating fraud and money laundering cases. Mr Hall said: "Unfortunately, the ICAEW were unable to investigate our complaint because Mr Matterson failed to respond to the ICAEW's investigators.
"Under ICAEW regulations, failing to respond is an extremely serious regulatory breach and a disciplinary panel have therefore excluded Mr Matterson from membership of the ICAEW, in addition to imposing a fine and costs."
Firms offering accountancy services must comply with the money-laundering regulations. They must appoint someone as "nominated officer" who is required to look out for suspicious activity in the business that could be linked to money laundering or terrorism. If they do so, they are obliged to create a Suspicious Activity Report (SAR) and send it to law enforcement agencies to look into further. All reports are treated entirely confidentially.
Nominated officers are also required to put anti-money laundering controls and training procedures in place. Failure to submit an SAR can also be classed as a criminal offence under the Proceeds of Crime Act and can carry a sentence of up to five years in jail. As can making a disclosure that prejudices a police investigation.
Please refer to the website's MLR page for more detail. All ICB registered practices are issued with the ICB's comprehensive MLR Guidance Manual which is available to non-members and non-practice licence holders at a cost of £95.00.