Trial collapses after it emerges expert “has no academic qualifications”

Bahra: Safety of other convictions now in doubt

A major prosecution against eight defendants for an alleged carbon credits fraud has collapsed after it emerged that a prosecution expert witness had no academic qualifications.

Narita Bahra QC, who acted for one of the defendants, Steven Sulley, said Andrew Ager had been used by prosecutors as an expert witness on carbon credits to secure convictions at over 20 previous trials.

Ms Bahra, based at 2 Hare Court, wrote on the chambers’ website that Mr Ager “improperly attempted” to dissuade defence expert Dr Marius Cristian Frunza, who lectures on carbon credit markets and holds a PhD from Sorbonne University, from giving evidence.

As a result Mr Ager was cross-examined by the defence team representing Mr Sulley – which also included John Carl Townsend of Carmelite Chambers – before the expert was permitted to give evidence at Southwark Crown Court.

Ms Bahra, who was instructed by GSG Solicitors, said it emerged that Mr Ager “had no academic qualifications whatsoever”.

She went on: “He had not obtained a degree. When asked if he had any A-levels, he replied that he had sat three, but couldn’t remember if he had passed.

“Despite asserting that he kept abreast of the carbon credits market, he admitted that he had not read any books on the subject even though he accepted that Dr Frunza’s books were widely available.

“He did, however, tell the court that he had once seen a documentary about carbon credits.”

Ms Bahra said Mr Ager admitted that a number of the assertions he had made to Dr Frunza during a joint experts meeting were either “wholly untrue or substantially inaccurate”.

Mr Ager admitted that he had “kept no record whatsoever of the material that he had been provided with by the police and no notes” of his workings.

“He admitted that he had lost some of the sensitive material he had been provided with by the police as he kept it in a cupboard under the stairs and the material had been damaged by a ‘leak’.

“He did, however, assure the court that he now had better storage facilities as he kept confidential material in a ‘locked box on his balcony’.”

The defendants asserted that they believed that there was a viable market for carbon credits and that the value of the credits would rise.

Ms Bahra said that at the end of the cross-examination, prosecuting counsel “confirmed that they abandoned Mr Ager and that he had been removed from the National Crime Agency’s list of approved experts”.

She said the judge, HHJ Nicholas Loraine-Smith, commented that Mr Ager should never be permitted to give expert evidence again.

Ms Bahra said that after the cross-examination with Mr Ager, the prosecution team disclosed they had “potentially damaging” information about Peter Buckie, another expert witness who had already given evidence at the trial on the subject of diamond sales.

This evidence revealed that Mr Buckie had been abandoned as a prosecution witness in 2013 as a result of misconduct allegations.

Ms Bahra said this evidence “did not appear on any prosecution disclosure schedule and was hidden from the defence until 28 May 2019, when it was revealed, for the first time, minutes before the prosecution offered no evidence and abandoned the case, thereby avoiding the officers and CPS lawyers being subjected to cross-examination”.

She added: “As a result of the cross-examination of Mr Ager, the safety of the convictions in every previous carbon credits prosecution is now in question.

“Furthermore, it is apparent that there are systemic failures within the investigation and disclosure processes at City of London Police that are likely to impact upon all prosecutions undertaken in the last eight years.”

A spokesman for City of London Police said: “This has been an enormously complex case of seven years duration. The case illustrates the significant change in the way fraud itself has evolved, along with our response in dealing with it.

“Together with our colleagues in the CPS, we apologise that the evidential and procedural issues in the case have led to its dismissal. Regrettably we haven’t been able to provide these victims with the level of service we continually strive for and for that we sincerely apologise.

“Since this case started we have been changing how we and others in policing investigate fraud. Undoubtedly there is key learning we will take from this case which we will use going forward to provide a better service to the victims of fraud.”

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