A jailed Israeli lawyer has failed in his attempt to prevent the Serious Organised Crime Agency (SOCA) from trying to seize millions of pounds in assets he held in several London bank accounts.
Mr Justice Foskett, sitting in the High Court in London, ruled last week that even though the money belonged to someone outside Britain, SOCA had the authority to ask the lawyer, Israel Perry, how he and his family had amassed more than £14 million.
Once it has that information, SOCA will then decide if the money has come from the proceeds of crime and, if so, they could seize it under the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002.
Israel Perry was jailed for 12 years in October 2007 for aggravated fraud, embezzlement, obstruction of justice and violation of insurance laws, after a six-year, high-profile trial.
It was said that he had stolen millions of deutschmarks from thousands of Israelis, including some Holocaust survivors. His appeal against conviction was dismissed in February this year, but his sentence was reduced to 10 years.
The court heard that in two banks in London — Hoare & Co and Bank J Safra (Gibraltar) Ltd — £14 million was held in at least three different currencies by Perry, his wife and two daughters.
Last year, SOCA had sought and been given permission by a judge ex parte (without hearing the other side) to serve a disclosure order on the Perrys, which would require them to explain where the money came from.
It was this decision that Perry and his family members sought to overturn.
The court was told that in 1983, Perry had set up a scheme to take advantage of an international agreement between Israel and the then West Germany, the Organisation for the Implementation of Social Security Treaty. This gave eligible Israelis the opportunity to receive pensions from West Germany by making a one-off payment — in lieu of monthly contributions — between 1956 and 1980.
About 30,000 Israelis signed up for the scheme. They were asked to make the payments to an insurance company, owned by Perry, registered in the Cayman Islands, and it was that part of the scheme, the court heard, which triggered the charges.
The Israeli court decided that the payments should have been made to an independent company. It ruled that Perry had failed to tell his clients that the terms of the deal he had arranged for them, through companies under his control, led to excessive payments, part of which he pocketed.
Mr Justice Foskett made it clear in his written judgment that his concern was the finding of dishonesty and the fact Perry and his family “have very significant sums of money in bank accounts in England that led SOCA to take the proceedings that give rise to the present application”.
The judge decided that there were sufficient grounds for SOCA to seek disclosure orders on the bank accounts and that there was no reason for changing the authority given to the agency.
Trevor Asserson, Perry’s solicitor in London, said: “The present judgment allows the English court to make an order against citizens of Israel, and of any other country, whether or not they have any responsibility for any criminal conduct.
It threatens them with imprisonment in the UK if they do not provide what might be highly sensitive and confidential information about suspected assets, even though the information and the assets may in the event prove to be unrelated to any criminal activity.
“Every Israeli citizen, indeed citizens of any other country, especially people retaining client information such as bankers, accountants and others, should be very concerned at the effect of this novel and far-reaching interpretation of UK law. Mr Perry will be seeking leave to appeal against this judgment.”