Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Plebgate: Mitchell and Police in agreement

Monday, November 25, 2013

Keeping crime down in a tough but intelligent fashion

Keeping crime down in a tough but intelligent fashion

(c)Mark Croucher 2013
'Alan', the French speaking leader of the fraudsters

Two weeks ago, a friend approached me seeking advice. She had been caught in a scam by a group of fraudsters and had lost £500 she couldn't afford. The fraudsters - 'Alan', 'John' and 'Tony' - were eager for another meeting to extract more money from her. What should she do?

As far as I could see, she had three options open to her: do nothing, go to the police or go to the press. She decided to go with the third option in the hope that her experiences would warn off other potential victims of the same scam, known as the 'wash-wash' or dirty money scam. Victims are told that cash has been smuggled into the UK dyed black to avoid problems with customs, but a special chemical is now required to wash the dye off, and this is expensive. In return for the victim financing the purchase of the chemical, they will earn a share of the proceeds. Yes, it requires a certain gullibility to fall for, and yes, it relies upon greed on the victim's part, but this is a common scam which catches many thousands of people a year.

To distil a long story into a brief summary, the next meeting between the victim and the fraudsters was set up in association with a Sunday newspaper. The hotel room was wired for audio and video, the victim wore a wire, and a team of photographers awaited the arrival of the fraudsters. One turned up on foot, and the other two in a brand new Lexus, which rather indicates just how well fraud pays nowadays.

It all worked very well. A fresh scam was convincingly explained to the victim and caught on video, while the team of photographers caught the car registration number and clear pictures of the fraudsters. When they left, they also left behind a package they claimed contained forged banknotes, several loose banknotes and a chemical tray, all of which were preserved in evidence bags because they would have the fraudsters fingerprints on them.

And this is where the interesting part begins. Ahead of publication and after considerable debate about the effects of Leveson and whether the paper would fall foul of the new press regulation regime,  they decided the matter should be reported to the police. As the victim lives close to me, I agreed to make the necessary arrangements, including attendance at a police station as we had considerable physical evidence.

I attended a SE London police station on the Tuesday evening hoping to speak to a CID officer. Instead, I found it impossible to get past the civilian desk officer, who was most keen that I report the crime to another division: the original crime did not happen in their area. They could not give me the number of the CID office I should speak to but suggested instead that I call the police non-emergency number, 101. In any case, as I was not the victim, I could not report the crime.

After over an hour, I decided that perhaps 101 was the answer so I left the first station and duly called. After almost an hour on the phone, I was assured that they would forward my details to another SE London police station - the one where the original fraud took place - and that they would be expecting myself and the victim around 12 noon the following day.

I duly arrived at the agreed station at the appointed hour with the victim. Naturally, nobody knew anything about what I'd said to the operator at '101', and so I joined the back of a large queue. Thinking to short-cut the process, I found the direct dial number for the CID office upstairs on the lobby wall and called them, explaining the situation. After 40 minutes, a bored looking plain-clothes officer came downstairs, and after explaining the circumstances to him he told me we'd have to join the queue again and report the crime to the civilian desk officer. 30 minutes later, on reaching the front of the queue, the desk officer explained that it was 'too complicated', and she would need to speak to CID. Another half an hour passed before we were eventually spoken to by a uniformed Inspector.

Of everyone we spoke to, the Inspector was the most forthcoming, and the most apologetic. He listened to our story, and then went back to CID. Nobody in CID was much interested, and when he returned, you could see the frustration on his face.

He explained that according to National Police Guidelines, police stations could no longer take reports of nor investigate cases of fraud: they all had to go through 'Action Fraud', a QUANGO which screens calls for the police. I explained that we had physical evidence to turn over, but this made no difference. As there was no prospect of an immediate arrest - the only time police are allowed to act on fraud without the permission of Action Fraud - they could do nothing. After spending two and a half hours at this police station, we left with all of our evidence. My sympathies were with the Inspector, who clearly despaired of the situation but was powerless to act.

The victim that evening called Action Fraud, explaining the circumstances. Last year, Action Fraud lost 2,500 cases due to a computer error, so my confidence was not high, and rightly so. To date, we still have all the physical evidence, and there has been no further contact from Action Fraud a week later. No crime has been recorded in relation to the fraud, and there is no crime number meaning it remains off of the crime statistics.

Meanwhile, between myself, the victim and the Sunday newspaper, we have several hundred photographs of the fraudsters, several memory cards with audio and video recordings of the fraud being explained by the fraudsters to a victim, a packet of forged banknotes, a chemical tray, several other loose banknotes and pictures of the fraudsters car, including its registration number. We also have a victim who, despite feeling incredibly stupid and knowing that her initial involvement was possibly criminal, is willing to make a statement and see the matter through to prosecution.  

After spending over 6 hours attempting to report a crime, I am still no closer to achieving what should be incredibly simple. David Cameron said last year that the government's approach to crime was to be 'tough but intelligent', and my experience of this seems broadly in line with that. Keeping crime figures down by refusing to accept reports of crime might seem intelligent to the government, but if you're a victim? Well, that's just tough.


Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Please, Jasna. Put the shovel down. You've made yourself look more than silly enough already.

I can't help but feel I've wasted enough of my life dealing with convicted fraudster and forger Jasna Badzak. The problem is, she just won't put the shovel down.

Yesterday evening, I exposed her lies about her 'UKIP visitor'. She posted a picture of her blood pressure monitor timestamped 17:57, supposedly taken after the visit. She then posted a picture allegedly from her CCTV showing the intruder present at 18:04, ten minutes after he was supposed to have left. Oh, if only she'd thought about taking a random picture of a bloke in a hallway just a quarter of an hour earlier!

Most people would give up on a lie when they're caught out, but not Ms Badzak. This morning she tweeted the following -

I'm sure she feels that is the killer fact, that her Omron blood pressure monitor is still set to summer time. Except that the clocks went back at the end of October. Meaning that if the blood pressure monitor was reading 17:57 BST, it was actually 16:57 GMT, or an hour earlier.

All of which means that the alleged visitor (who had 'just left' before she took her blood pressure at 17:57 on the Omron, or 16:57 in GMT) must have hung around in her corridor for 1 hour and 10 minutes afterwards in full view of her CCTV camera, which picked him up at 18:04.

Generally, its good advice when finding yourself in a hole to stop digging. Ms Badzak seems to have hired a JCB to excavate even more ground around her already shaky story. Sometimes, you've got to wonder how some people manage to work out how to turn their computer on.

Now, that really is enough time devoted to Ms Badzak.

Monday, November 11, 2013

How to prove yourself a liar on Twitter

I suppose we should feel some pity for poor, persecuted convicted fraudster and forger Jasna Badzak. Ever looking for the sympathy vote, Ms Badzak has returned to one of her two favourite subjects: that UKIP members are banging on her door and persecuting her. I hadn't intended to return to the subject of Ms Badzak's stupidity quite so quickly after my last post, but she kindly tweeted two pictures to prove it:

Just had another #UKIP #EDL visit. Consequences attached

Note that not only was the alleged visit already over, but she'd had time to check her blood pressure in this tweet. The Omron blood pressure machine showed the time as 17:57. This was followed by:

Face of #UKIP #EDL on my doorstep today. Threat to kill my child
Which shows her alleged visitor (who'd already left by 17:57) in the communal hallway outside her apartment at 18:04, almost ten minutes later. The moral of the story? If you're going to make up stuff, at least have the intelligence to post pictures which don't immediately prove you're a liar.

Then again, I suppose that all of this shows why Ms Badzak has got a tag on her ankle, can't go outside after 6pm, and has a 1 year suspended sentence for fraud and forgery, narrowly escaping an immediate custodial sentence solely because she cares for her child when she's not using him for sympathy in tweets.

More on Ms Badzak and her ongoing fraud when I can be bothered to type about it.

French Resistance or Taliban, they are fighting for their country.

They invaded their country, captured those who resisted, and then summarily executed them without trial, wounded or not. So how are these German troops pictured just outside Paris in 1941 different to the Royal Marine convicted of murdering a Taliban fighter? I've served in the military - including in the Gulf - so spare me the nonsense. But how do we convince the Afghans that our way of life - democracy, freedom & all that - is preferable if we act like the savages we accuse them of being? Isn't the idea to drag them up to our level, not to drag ourselves down to theirs? Just some food for thought, accompanied by a powerful image.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Does Serbian fraudster have links to Russian mob? - a look at Jasna Badzak

A Serbian immigrant from Bosnia who was convicted last month of perpetrating a fraud on UKIP MEP Gerard Batten has a long history of fraud, it was revealed today.

42 year old Jasna Badzak of Harrow Road, Kilburn, West London plead not guilty to charges of forgery and fraud but was found guilty by the jury at her trial at Southwark Crown Court last month. She had doctored bank statements to show she had not received her wages from the European Parliament before presenting them to Mr Batten. But records showed that after Mr Batten paid her from his own pocket she went on a shopping trip to Harrods. When Mr Batten attempted to recover the money, she launched a series of Employment Tribunal cases against him, all of which were dismissed. She received a 12 months suspended sentence and a 4 month curfew order for these offences, while the judge in the case, Michael Gledhill QC, said that if it were not for her son, she would have received an immediate prison term.
Jasna Badzak - also known as Maya Braun -
after her conviction for fraud and forgery

Things may have gone harder for Badzak had the judge been aware of the full extent of her dishonesty which dated back to shortly after her arrival in the UK as a refugee from Mostar in the early 90's.

Despite her CV claiming she was a 'high level business analyst' for the Economist Group, the Economist confirmed that they had no record of an employee or a subcontractor of that name. She did at one stage sell advertising space in European Voice magazine for an advertising sales company - KP Sales Ltd - but that is a far cry from the 'consultancy and business development' role she awarded herself. She also claimed to have "taken sole charge of European Voice and ensured it’s (sic) survival’.

The real frauds begin around the turn of the millennium, however. At that time, she emerged as managing director of a company called 'Finance Central Europe', which she claimed to have bought off the Economist when it 'consolidated or spun off some of it's operations'. The Economist has never had a publication by that name, although it did have a similarly named one which it remained the owners of.

Finance Central Europe presented itself as a magazine which specialised in the subjects which one might expect given its title. There is just one problem - nobody has ever seen a copy of the magazine, which operated from a maildrop operated by Citibox Ltd in Central London and which was registered at Badzak's home address. Her and her husband, Dragomir Mikulic, were the sole directors, while it's website (now removed) was a simple text affair with no content.

So what did Finance Central Europe do? It appears to have been in the business of selling non-existent business awards to companies - some unsuspecting, some involved in organised crime - across Eastern Europe. Badzak, occasionally using the alias Maya Braun, would contact companies in Central Europe offering them research packages costing between £ 485 and £ 5250. As revealed in an article in Montenegran newspaper 'The Monitor', they offered a ranking service for banks - the difference with their service was that only banks which paid for their 'research' - a collation of publicly available figures - would be ranked. The 'Monitor' article followed an earlier expose in a Bosnian newspaper - 'Independent' - based in Banja Luka which precipitated the threat of a lawsuit against them for £1m each. While the lawsuit never materialised, the lawyer 'hired' by Finance Central Europe proved to be Badzak's father-in-law according to Boris Djurik, the paper's foreign correspondent. 'Independent' responded by re-publishing the article, along with a selection of comments from its readers. The comments included claims that Badzak and her mother were defrauding the British social security system and that that fraud was continuing.

When it came to issuing the awards, simply buying the research packages weren't enough. There were further fees to be entered into consideration, a premium level report had to be commissioned, and then there was a formal entry fee for judging. The awards issued reflected how much had been paid, and could cost in excess of £20,000 per award per year.

Now, some of the banks which effectively purchased their awards from Badzak were reputable companies simply unfamiliar with doing business in Western Europe and who thought that publicising such awards would show their increasing strength. Others, however, had rather less reputable motives.

Universal Bank of Moldova began buying FCE awards as far back as 1998 and continued to do so through 2007, according to their website which is currently under re-construction. Universal Bank is quite interesting, as it was at one stage owned by Russian banker German Geruntsov. Geruntsov was gunned down in the street outside his London home in 2012, supposedly by a Serbian hitman. Geruntsov himself was a suspect in the assassination of Russian state Duma deputy Ruslan Amadayev, who was investigating corruption on a massive scale by companies owned by Geruntsov and his business partner, Alexander Antonov. After Geruntosov fell out with Antonov, the latter and his son were also assassinated. Universal Bank of Moldova (Best bank in Moldova, Finance Central Europe Awards 2006) is suspected of holding over £1.5bn embezzled from the Russian railway network on behalf of the Russian mafia.

This is not all. When you look at other banks which have won Finance Central Europe awards, a surprisingly high percentage are under investigation or have been closed down for links with either Serbian organised crime or the Russian mafia. What Badzak's awards managed to achieve was to lend the banks a spurious credibility and plausibility by making them appear as if they had won awards from a company linked to the Economist magazine of London. Even worse, gullible but apparently honest banks such as DSK Bank of Bulgaria continue to tout such awards in the mistaken belief that they have won honestly - DSK was awarded 'bank of the decade, 2000-2010' by FCE.

The fraud appears to have not just been limited to banks, however. At various times, non-financial companies also received awards from Finance Central Europe, including Serbian Railways and the Sarajevo Brewery.

So, how much has Badzak made from her fraudulent activities? It is difficult to say, as Finance Central Europe Ltd was struck off the register in 2004, and in any case never filed any accounts. Despite this, it continued to trade as a UK limited company until early last year, and may still be doing so. I have found evidence of at least 130 awards on the internet over the past few years, although several of these have now disappeared - either the awards have been removed from webpages, or the company websites have disappeared completely. A not unreasonable estimate of her income from these scams would be in the region of £100,000 per year, and all the while she was also allegedly claiming benefits in the UK as a refugee - she later became a naturalised British citizen.

Is this all? Apparently not. According to the Monitor, there is a link between Badzak’s ‘magazine’ and another rating company, this one called Global Ratings Ltd. Global Ratings Ltd is, as the article suggests, another company scamming businesses in the Balkans. Like Finance Central Europe Ltd, it was also struck off the register in 2004, although it’s ownership was more convoluted than Badzaks company. Shareholders in Global Ratings Ltd were two companies – Financial Results LLC of 1072 Folsom Street, San Francisco, Ca – the address is a maildrop – and Star Premier Corporation, PO Box 3321, Road Town, Tortola, British Virgin Islands – another maildrop. Registered directors were Frank and Ellen McGlinn of 6, Divert Road, Gourock, Renfrewshire, Scotland. At the time of writing, Frank McGlinn is the director of 5 companies, and is listed as having been a director of 7 others which have been struck off the register, including Global Rating Ltd. The awards made by this company followed a similar pattern, although also caught a number of unsuspecting companies. How? It invited their directors to gala award dinners in London to collect their awards, and then afterwards presented them with a bill for the dinner and accommodation of over £5,000 each: rather expensive rubber chicken. This scam stretched outside the Balkans and their immediate surroundings, gathering victims in the Ukraine, Uzbhekistan and as far afield as India. My investigations into the precise form of the link between Badzak and McGlinn are continuing.

The question must be will Badzak ever be prosecuted for any of this? Clearly the benefit fraud - which has been reported - is the most likely, although with Finance Central Europe's bank account presumably being held offshore, and with the limited company struck off long before the fraud finished - assuming it is not still being perpetrated - it is difficult to know who exactly will investigate and/or prosecute. As for Badzak's links with organised crime, who knows? Was she a useful tool to make mafia and organised crime controlled banks appear respectable, or was she a willing part of the scheme to make them so? Either way, a 12 month suspended sentence seems like a stroll in the park compared to her crimes.