Barrow explained that criminals often use unique naming systems to create a network of fraudulent companies. “An experienced investigator can soon spot the underlying methodology,” he told openDemocracy.
“This is made all the more straightforward where previous registrations of similar companies have already had action taken by Companies House to remove some or all personal details from the register, as this is indicative of someone having complained about their details being used without their knowledge or permission.
“In the cases being reported here, evidence of both exists, making it highly likely they are bogus companies being used in highly suspicious circumstances.”
It is illegal to use fake identities to set up British companies, but there is currently no way of preventing it. Companies House does not have any statutory powers to verify the accuracy of information that it publishes.
In fact, the first (and possibly only) person to be prosecuted for this “serious offence” was a transparency campaigner, Kevin Brewer – who had set up a company under the name of the then business secretary, Vince Cable, in a bid to highlight the problem.
MPs are due to vote on the Economic Crime Bill later this year, which would finally introduce identity checks for company directors.
It forms part of planned reforms for Companies House, giving it more powers to query information that it receives and cross-check its data with other authorities.
openDemocracy has previously reported on a litany of fake names used by fraudsters and pranksters, with apparently no attempt to stop them.
The official Companies House register has included directors called ‘Adolf Tooth Fairy Hitler’ and ‘Donald Duck’. Another former director is ‘Holy Jesus Christ’, who gives his occupation as ‘Creator’ and his country of residence as ‘Heaven’.
A Companies House spokesperson said: “We take all allegations of fraud seriously and support law enforcement investigations into the misuse of UK companies. As part of our transformation we are building capability in this area and will be developing systems to identify suspicious activity.”
openDemocracy attempted to contact the government officials whose identities have been used, but they did not respond to our request for comment. Their employers were also unable to assist.
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