That's the highest level since 1995, according to KPMG's Forensic Fraud Barometer. This report may sound like the missing link between CSI: Miami and Howards' Way, but it clearly highlights some very real problems, and predicts that worse is on the way.
According to the report, there were 239 cases of fraud in 2008 involving sums of £100k or more. Fraud cases in the corporate sector saw a five-fold increase in value, up from £24m in 2007 to £125m in 2008, while fraud in the financial sector hit £388m. That's a huge rise from the £37m of 2007 (although the 2008 total does include an alleged £220m attempt to hack into Sumitomo Matsui Banking Corporation's systems).
All of which makes for a rather disturbing image of UK plc. At a time when the economic (and weather) conditions make company capital incredibly insecure, the last thing we need are a wave of rogue elements fiddling, pilfering and embezzling. And while a significant amount of illicit activity came from professional gangs - to the tune of £800m - it still seems there are plenty of budding Bernard Madoffs out there on the ground. Company managers, employees and customers made off with a total of £300m - three times the total of 2007.
There is of course a logical connection between recession and fraud. As well as people turning to illicit means to protect their usual standard of living, even honest managers may be tempted into some creative accounting to cover up the damage done by falling revenues and rising debts. Accounting frauds were widespread in 2008, with 34 cases worth a total of over £145m, compared to 30 cases worth £22m in 2007. And this is before the effect of the recession has had a real effect. According to KPMG, following the recession of early 1990s, the full wave of fraud didn't hit the courts until 1995.
So we can expect the blizzard of fraud cases to worsen. But who are the criminal masterminds we should be looking out for? They apparently take many forms. KPMG highlights the financial controller of a data firm in Exeter, who wrote cheques to himself to buy three cars, including an £84k Bentley. He also ran up credit card bills of £150k, and diverted £130k from the business into his wife's company. Equally ambitious, although far more inept, was the man who stole company cheques, wrote one out to himself for £500k, and tried to pay it into his account via the bank's self-service machine. Meanwhile a Midlands woman stole £350k over two years from her vending company employer - including £70k in coins. Listen out for any employees jingling as they cross the car park...
In today's bulletin:
BP slips up - profits rise 'only' 39%
Vodafone cheers as sterling quarter adds £1.8bn
Football clubs do roaring trade
Fingers in tills: UK fraud cases on the rise
No business likes snow business