Secret Service rule: No time to hide
Serving court documents on fraudsters based outside of the jurisdiction or who cannot be located can be a gruelling exercise: they often seek any opportunity to avoid being served and the process is costly and time-consuming. Is there a quick and cheap option? The answer is often 'yes': if the fraudster is a director of any English company, a little-used section of the Companies Act 2006 (section 1140) allows court papers to be served on the fraudster at the address they have registered at Companies House whether or not the claim has anything to do with the company or their position as director of the company.
Directors of English companies must give an address at Companies House, and that address can be anywhere in the world. However, many international fraudsters do not want to give their actual address so as to ensure secrecy and instead adopt the registered office of their company (but that address has to be in the UK). In attempting to be smart by concealing their home address and using the company's registered office address, fraudsters are thankfully exposing themselves to an easy win by victims. This is because the company's address can be used to serve the fraudster even if the company has nothing to do with the claim.
This has been confirmed in Key Homes Bradford Ltd v Patel (2015) (and approved in Brouwer v Anstey (2019)). There, the defendant argued that the claim against him had not been properly served. At the time of service, he was a director in several English companies which recorded UK addresses as his address even though he resided in the United Arab Emirates. The Court held that section 1140 permitted service on him at the UK address.
Therefore, when serving a fraudster who is located outside of the jurisdiction or whose whereabouts are unknown, always check Companies House first to see if they are a director of an English company and what address they have provided. This will save thousands of pounds and turn a drawn out court process into a simple matter of putting documents in the post.
Other articles in this series:
- Catching fraudsters: little-known litigation tricks (Part 1) - Burner phones and the pursuit of stolen money
- Catching fraudsters: little-known litigation tricks (Part 2) - Finding fraudsters' hidden property
- Catching fraudsters: little-known litigation tricks (Part 4) - Obtaining evidence from overseas banks