Supported by HMRC and Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), Operation Broadway is a London-wide clampdown on suspected investment frauds operating from Virtual Office addresses in London. The partnership is part of a coordinated drive to uncover organised crime and engage with office providers that are unknowingly providing criminals with prestige addresses.

Operation Broadway has been targeting at least one boiler room scam a week for the last year, using unique powers available to trading standards officers which allow them to enter any business premises without a warrant.

Investment fraud victims are duped with the promise of being able to make high percentage returns on investments when in reality their money is being used to fund a life of excess and luxury for criminals. The operation has been set up specifically to tackle this problem, checking on offices suspected of being involved in some sort of investment scam - from speculative invoicing to art and land investments.

These are big figures: more than 5000 investors lost almost £2bn to investment fraud last year. Things include precious metals, jewellery, land, art and wine. Typical boiler room scams make an average of £1.25m.

Efforts by the authorities include leafleting, visiting premises and intelligence checks, as well as a wider focus on educating the public.

Hatton & Berkeley welcomes the initiative and hopes other legitimate virtual office providers will follow suit. Whatever can be done to build trust in the virtual industries must be done.

Virtual offices and virtual telecoms providers have been helping SME’s and freelancers grow for decades, yet due to its nature as a virtual enterprise, disreputable individuals and criminal networks have taken advantage of – and occasionally tarnished - the hard won trust and reputation companies such as ours have built up.

Revenue & Customs has produced an anti-money laundering guidance for trust or company service providers, which can be downloaded at:

http://www.hmrc.gov.uk/mlr/mlr_tcsp.pdf

It sets out legal requirements and good practice to help businesses comply with anti-money laundering legislation. If you know or suspect that a person is engaged in money laundering, you have a duty to report it. Failure to do so may result in a fine and/or imprisonment.