Yes, you did read that headline right!
Over the years, many people have demonstrated that the case for HS2 is what many people would call ‘fraudulent’: that there may have been financial conflicts of interest when it came to producing what passes for the evidence to support HS2; or that it is absolutely clear that an increasing number of businesses that are lobbying for HS2 have already made money out of it.
Whilst that sort of thing might well described by some as be duplicitous, shady, deceitful, clandestine or immoral, none of that as far as we know is actually fraudulent in the strict legal sense of the word.
However, we have now come to the inescapable conclusion that HS2 Ltd are actually committing actual fraud in the criminal sense, on a regular, premeditated and industrial scale. We believe that HS2 Ltd fall foul of an untested piece of the 2006 Fraud Act, as they have a legal obligation not to cause losses to those businesses, farms and people which are subject to compulsory property purchase.
To make sure the police take this seriously, we need everyone who feels that they have lost money because of the actions or inactions of HS2 Ltd and their agents to make a complaint. There’s nothing to lose, potentially everything to gain, it will only cost some of you time and the more people who complain and submit evidence, the more likely the police will take it seriously. There are instructions on what to do at the bottom of this article, but first we need to explain why we think what they are doing is fraud.
In the past, it has sadly been commonplace for developers to breach what is known as the ‘Compensation Code’, which is made up of different pieces of legislation such as: the Compulsory Purchase Acts of 1965 & 1981; the Land Compensation Act 1973; and the Town and Country Planning Act 1990, on a serial basis. This is because there is no set penalty in law for breaking these laws, and the same can be said of the High Speed Rail Act of 2017 itself.
Under those various laws that comprise the compensation code, the key principal is one of ‘equivalence’, meaning that no-one subject to compulsory purchase should end up better off, or worse off as a result of any given scheme. In respect of those laws and of course the HSR Act itself, HS2 Ltd undeniably have a statutory duty to protect the financial interests of those whose properties they are buying, and that’s what gets them in trouble. We are now convinced that HS2 Ltd and the Department for Transport have simply never considered that the laws concerning fraud might apply to them.
In 2006, the definition of what constitutes fraud was expanded, and Section 4 of the 2006 Fraud Act specifies the offence of “Fraud by Abuse of Position”, which occurs when individuals and organisations occupy a position in which they are expected to safeguard and not act against the financial interests of another person. Fraud can occur when individuals and organisations dishonestly abuse that position, either to make a gain out, or more importantly in this case cause someone else to endure a loss. Any ‘dishonest abuse of position’ does not have to be deliberate, it just has to have happened.
Here is the actual text of Section 4 of the 2006 Act:
4) Fraud by abuse of position
1) A person is in breach of this section if he-
a) occupies a position in which he is expected to safeguard, or not to act against, the financial interests of another person,
b) dishonestly abuses that position, and
c) intends, by means of the abuse of that position—
i) to make a gain for himself or another, or
ii) to cause loss to another or to expose another to a risk of loss.
2) A person may be regarded as having abused his position even though his conduct consisted of an omission rather than an act.
There is maybe also a case that offences could have taken place under Sections 2 & 3 of the Act too, and if you have missed what has been going on you can catch up by watching the various videos about the businesses in Birmingham, the farmland in Warwickshire or Cheshire or the route-wide Panorama programme from last year, but for a number of years (and this is not an exhaustive list), HS2 Ltd have, and continue to:
a) Seize land and property, mainly business premises, without making any payment whatsoever for the purchase of the properties or relocation cost or loss of earnings. In many cases, HS2 Ltd fail to produce an estimate of the value or even commence negotiations months after taking possession. It is also the case that many property owners have only relinquished property when threatened with the prospect of being evicted by bailiffs, which they have been advised they would end up having to pay for.
b) Treat farmland which will be required on a permanent basis as if it is required on a temporary basis, to delay payments. HS2 Ltd also fail to provide farmers with compensation due to lack of earnings after taking possession of land that they do want on a temporary (and permanent) basis.
c) Use as many tactics as possible to get land, business and home owners to accept less for their property than it is worth.
d) Refuse to accept ‘blight notices’, meaning they would be required to buy properties that are not needed to build the scheme, but cannot sell on the open market due it. In many cases because HS2 Ltd have decided these are ‘too far’ away from the proposed tracks, even if they are right next to a construction compound, planned depot or similar associated works. This is a less clear-cut instance of fraud by abuse of position, however we know HS2 Ltd have not been even handed with their acceptance of blight notices, so it is worth complaining about if you have evidence.
So let’s recap all of that again.
HS2 Ltd have a legally defined responsibility to safeguard the financial interests of everyone who they are buying land from, and have several defined timescales which they are not only failing to meet, but in many cases are not even attempting to meet.
As a result of their failure to pay people for land and businesses that they have already seized in many cases without even valuing it, their failure to even consider paying relocation costs to lots of businesses, to clearly and deliberately undervalue homes, to fail to pay farmers for the use of their land, and to refuse to buy homes which are clearly impacted by the scheme, people and businesses are losing money. This is undeniable. And for this to be fraud it doesn’t have to be deliberate, it can be due to sheer and utter incompetence, but whatever the reason, it’s time for the police to investigate.
But of course the police won’t investigate without evidence, and if you feel you have lost money due to the actions or inactions of HS2 Ltd or their agents, you can report it on the Action Fraud Website, which is the national police fraud reporting website, quoting the crime reference number NFRC190302828424.
it is actually very easy to make a complaint, as the whole thing is a pretty standard form. there are a couple of things to note:
- The form will ask for the details of the complaint and the amount of money you feel you lost, but you can enter estimates.
- When you start your report, we suggest that when it comes to the “What did the fraud relate to” page, you should select the “I can’t find the relevant option” option at the bottom.
- Although the form will ask you for the address and company registration of the company you are reporting, you do not need this information and can just fill in the name as ‘HS2 Ltd’ and not worry about filling in the rest of their details.
- Once you have set up a profile on the Action Fraud Website, you can save your complaint at any point and come back to it later before you submit it, so you don’t have to do the whole thing in one go, especially if you feel you need more information after you have started.
- Please do not forget to say that you are submitting your complaint and/or evidence in support of the complaint made under crime reference number NFRC190302828424 to make sure it all gets looked at together.
Please note, we ARE NOT suggesting going to the Serious Fraud Office at this point, as they are actually a government agency. As a result we have little faith in them taking this seriously, and that was before they recently abandoned a number of high-profile investigations.
There is very a good chance that there are people who have long since sold up and moved on, whom very much felt they were mistreated by HS2 Ltd, when it came to the payments they got for their property. If you are in contact with anyone in that situation, please pass this on to them.
This is a very serious matter, but we genuinely believe HS2 Ltd have a case to answer and that because the government have abdicated their responsibilities, a criminal investigation should now be taking place.