Abbey continues battle to reclaim stolen 1.2m

Abbey National is continuing its civil case against Mike Doyle and the other seven co-defendants found guilty of defrauding it, to recover the more than 1.2m they stole.

The eight, found guilty at the Old Bailey on Tuesday in the biggest fraud case ever to hit the marketing industry, will be sentenced after June 23. But the importance of the case will be felt throughout the marketing services world for years to come.

When Marketing Week revealed that Doyle had been suspended (MW August 26 1994) amid fraud allegations, it put the spotlight on agency relationships. A number of companies admit that they reviewed their internal agency relationships after Doyle was charged in March 1995 (MW March 17 1995).

The fact that the fraud, between November 30 1992 and October 26 1994 when Doyle was arrested, continued for so long without detection, and involved four of its suppliers, led to an internal reorganisation at Abbey National. “We have had a thorough review of all the company’s control systems and some changes were made to prevent a similar fraud happening again,” says an Abbey spokesman. “We started the civil action to freeze the money the defendants had taken.”

The bank’s civil claim was delayed to allow the criminal case to continue.

The fraud was discovered because of concerns raised by the then sales promotion manager Gary Brown, who spent one week giving evidence in the witness box during the trial. Brown was bypassed in the authorisation of payments to agency suppliers.

Doyle was found guilty of four counts of conspiracy to defraud, which involved the agencies either overcharging for work done, or invoicing for work that was never carried out. He was then paid “kickbacks” by the individual company directors, also convicted on Tuesday.

Trial judge Peter Beaumont made it clear that he saw Doyle, who did not give evidence in the trial, as the main instigator of the scheme and described him as “greedy”.

Doyle became marketing services director, earning a salary of 44,700 plus a 5,050 bonus, in 1993. In the next two years he more than doubled his earnings through fraud, said prosecutor Anthony Glass QC during the trial.

“It is not possible to give exact figures for Michael Doyle’s profits but we are able to prove that 230,577 went into accounts controlled by him or his wife,” said Glass. “Some or all of this was his share of the Abbey National money paid to the businesses of Doyle’s co-defendants and channelled back to him.”

In court it was revealed that 662,910 was paid to the agencies involved during 1993, and up to Doyle’s suspension in August 1994 a further 548,964 was paid.

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