Mishcon de Reya is considering what steps to take after one of its partners was described in court and the press as having communicated a £1m bribe to police as part of a bizarre scheme to catch a conman.
In 2013 Mishcon partner Mike Stubbs was instructed by Luis Nobre, a Portuguese fraudster, to help take control of funds which Nobre claimed belonged to him.
When Stubbs realised Nobre was a confidence trickster and that the money constituted the proceeds of a EUR100m fraud perpetrated against a Dutch company, Allseas, the Mishcon partner dropped Nobre and switched sides.
In the course of acting for Allseas to recover its money, the partner was placed under an ongoing instruction to pass on anything relevant about the fraud to a Detective Chief Inspector at the Met who was in charge of the case.
Given the publicity around the matter, a significant number of tips and offers to catch Nobre made their way to Stubbs, which he dutifully relayed to the DCI, RollOnFriday understands.
But six years later, an offer made to Stubbs unexpectedly resurfaced during proceedings at Southwark Crown Court brought against a French banker who was subsequently convicted over his role in the fraud.
The banker’s barrister quoted the Met’s record of a 2013 meeting with Stubbs. At the meeting, the Mishcon partner had relayed the details of a particularly wild proposal to a pair of junior officers, who had replaced Stubbs’ usual contact.
Reminiscent of a John le Carré thriller, the plan involved a secret CIA slush fund, a sting operation at a Swiss bank and a seven figure bribe.
Stubbs had explained to the officers that a former SAS sergeant had contacted him with a plan to ensnare Nobre which required the help of the police. They would need to trick Nobre into thinking he was no longer being investigated, and also return the conman's passport. The former special forces soldier claimed he would then convince Nobre to travel to Switzerland. Once there, Nobre would be persuaded to access an account containing EUR300 million of “CIA funds” intended for “covert” purposes in Somalia. When Nobre withdrew the money, he could be arrested red-handed, the ex-soldier told Stubbs.
To sweeten the deal for the Met, the former soldier said he could arrange for £1m of the recovered cash to be paid to the Serious Organised Crime Agency, or into the Met’s pension fund, “in order to ease the current austere environment”.
However, Stubbs' presentation of this information to the Met appears to have been characterised at the 2019 hearing as if he had been recommending the ambitious scheme to the police. The impression Stubbs was endorsing an international caper involving a million pound bribe was then reproduced in a widely-circulated Guardian article.
Would have been cool if Stubbs had led a sting, though.
According to the Guardian story, the banker’s barrister told the credulous court that the two police officers “pointed out to Stubbs in clear and strongly worded terms that this offer was interpreted as a bribe, money laundering and an attempt to deceive a suspect on bail”.
Stubbs “took this on board”, according to the barrister’s account reported in the Guardian, and was said to have texted the ex-SAS officer the message, “Too dangerous.”
The judge, David Tomlinson, appears to have taken this all at face value. “The whole thing is bizarre. I mean, there are all sorts of problems with it”, he said, correctly.
“There are all sorts of questions one can imagine one might ask Mike Stubbs if only to show him how harebrained the idea is”, said the judge.
While the judge didn't make any adverse findings against Stubbs, according to the Guardian he said there was a “degree of consensus” between the prosecution and the defence “that some of the behaviour of Mike Stubbs of Mishcon de Reya has been questionable”.
As Stubbs was not questioned, he was unable to explain that he had not actually been the front man for a band of mercenaries, but was duty-bound to tell the police about every crackpot scheme relating to Nobre which came across his desk.
RollOnFriday understands that Stubbs heard nothing back from the Met after informing them about the elaborate plot in 2013, and never saw their report of his meeting, or knew it had been discussed at a trial in 2019. The first time Stubbs heard he had been fingered as the point man of the Swiss Money Trap Gambit was when the Guardian rang him up.
A spokesperson for Mishcon de Reya said, “The timing of this story – seven years after the events in question – and the characters involved make this reporting deeply suspicious. We are now considering what further steps to take”.