Journalist investigating £100m investment fraud given 'absurd' harassment warning by Met Police

A second British journalist has revealed how they were presented with a harassment warning and threatened with arrest by police after making legitimate inquiries into an allegation of fraud.

Press Gazette revealed earlier this month how two phone-calls to a convicted fraudster and one doorstep visit saw Croydon Advertiser journalist Gareth Davies served with a Prevention of Harassment Letter by police.

Now Florida-based UK journalist David Marchant has revealed how he was given a harassment warning by the Met as a result of his investigation into an alleged £100m investment fraud. He insists that he has never contacted in any way the person he is alleged to have harassed.

But despite the Met Police providing no evidence of the alleged harassment, Marchant has failed in his attempts to get the warning rescinded.

The story began with an investigation by the website Marchant edits OffshoreAlert into the Cayman Islands-based Axiom Legal Financing Fund, which led to the £100m fund being suspended on 27 October 2012. Investors in the fund, which has since been liquidated, are still chasing their money.

The following month OffshoreAlert held a conference on financial due diligence at the May Fair Hotel in London.

Six weeks later, on 11 January 2013, Marchant received an email from a Detective Inpsector at Charing Cross CID alleging that he had harassed the daughter of an executive who had profited from the alleged Axiom fraud.

It said that a complaint had been made that Marchant had harassed the woman outside her place of study on 29 November 2013.

The police letter said: “This act scared her, as she is aware of your disputes with her father and the various threats – court action and exposure to legal authorities – that both parties to the dispute have been making against one another and feared for her safety. Your action, she claimed, caused her alarm and distress.”

The email said that the area where she studied was “only frequented by persons engaged in some business there, it is not on a busy thoroughfare nor a tourist haunt. Your presence there would therefore be viewed as unusual.”

The policeman added: “The offence of Harassment requires that there is a course of conduct before it is completed and in this case there is no secondary incident, so the criteria for the full offence is not fully met. However, as a means to ensure that this matter does not progress, I am duty bound to inform you of the report against you – case reference CRIS 423358/12 – and advise you that should this matter escalate and you do engage in harassment of Ms Schools, you will be arrested.”

The officer who sent the email was at the time head of the Economic and Complex Crime Unit for Westminster.

Marchant told Press Gazette: “Incredulous, I immediately called to ask for specific details about what I was supposed to have done.”

Marchant said he was told the woman was leaving a building in East London and said she had seen someone who matched his description running down the street.

“The complaint was rejected because, even if it had been me, it did not meet the standard of harassment.

“Notwithstanding this, and despite not contacting me beforehand, the police issued me with a warning. They told me that other related complaints had been made against me, including attempting to pervert the course of justice, blackmail, and hacking a phone and that all of these had been rejected.

“I informed the police that I had never attempted to contact this person in my life, directly or indirectly, by phone, fax, email, letter, or in person, etc. and I expressed astonishment that the police could reject her complaint but still issue me with a warning without contacting me beforehand.

“I expressed amazement that someone whose main role was to investigate financial crime should be harassing an investigative reporter on behalf of someone who had committed a financial crime.

“I asked him to withdraw the harassment warning but he refused.”

A frustrated Marchant finally sent the officer an email which said: “I’m a British national who lived in Britain for the first 24 years of my life before moving away. I investigate serious financial crime for a living and I do it professionally, competently, and fairly.

“My investigations often lead me into contact with British law enforcement and regulators and they never fail to disappoint me by their incompetence and lack of professionalism…

“I feel sorry for anyone who is the target of your fumblings. Here’s a message to you and your boss: ‘Fuck Off’ and don’t subject anyone else to the nonsense that you have subjected me to.”

This email was blocked by the Met Police server because “it may contain unacceptable language, or inappropriate material”. So Marchant had to send it again replacing the letters uc with @@.

 

Marchant said he would still like to get the "absurd" harassment warning rescinded because “you never know how these things could come back to haunt you” but he has given up hope of doing so.

He said the fact that he was moved to use obscenity in an email to the police is an indication of the level of exasperation he was feeling.

Marchant said the assets of the man at the centre of his investigation were frozen following a High Court application by Axiom Legal Financing Fund’s receiver’s, who have also filed a fraud complaint against him. But he has yet to face a fraud prosecution in the UK.

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