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Car crash cheats paid to lie in court; Insurance gang found guilty in PS127m con.

Byline: PENMAN INVESTIGATES

HERE'S Nathan George-Broom, a central figure in an extraordinary trial that has exposed a monumental scam and "perjury on an industrial scale".

The crime helped the insurance industry save millions of pounds on the amount it paid for replacement hire cars provided to motorists involved in traffic accidents.

In thousands of cases, the insurers used supposed expert brokers who lied in court about the hire costs.

The victim of the lies was Accident Exchange Ltd, which arranged supply of the replacement cars, expecting to get the money back from a driver's insurance company.

But in possibly as many as 30,000 cases the insurers disputed the amount claimed, stating that cheaper equivalent hire cars were available, using the evidence of "experts" from a company called Autofocus Limited as proof.

Time after time, Autofocus sent members of staff to court where they swore that they had phoned local hire car offices and found that cheaper prices were available.

But the calls had not been made.

The experts from Autofocus were committing "perjury on an industrial scale", as Lord Justice Moses said in an earlier hearing.

Here's just one stark example, a case where a replacement convertible Mercedes SLK350 was required.

George-Broom claimed to have telephoned someone called Tim at the Sheffield branch of Avis, who quoted a cheaper rate for it than the one provided to an insurer by Accident Exchange.

But the real Avis branch manager later revealed that no one called Tim worked there, they did not provide any convertible cars or that model of Mercedes sports car, and the number George-Broom claimed to have phoned was nothing to do with them.

Autofocus did very nicely out of its lies, getting paid around PS300 each time it provided alternative hire car quotes to insurers and PS1,000 for sending one of its staff to give evidence in court.

The insurance companies won too, because they saved money every time a court ruled in their favour and cut a hire car payout. Accident Exchange meanwhile says it is PS127million out of pocket and had to lay off 300 staff as the shares of parent company Accident Exchange Group PLC plummeted in value.

Seven former members of staff at Autofocus, which went into liquidation in 2011, have been on trial in the High Court for contempt of court. They are director Elaine Walker, team leaders George-Broom and Duncan Sadler, plus Andrew Watts, David James, Laurence Gray and Keel Broom.

John Rees QC, on behalf of Accident Exchange, described the operation as "a very serious perversion of the course of justice".

He named the main perpetrators as Colin McLean and Suzy Forrest, the chairman and managing director of Autofocus, who are not defendants.

Team leaders George-Broom and Sadler were, he explained, "willing participants".

The allegations against all seven were either admitted or found proven by Mr Justice Supperstone in a decision just published.

He said Autofocus reports "were not only inaccurate, but contained information which inquiries suggested was simply made up".

There was, he ruled, overwhelming evidence that the defendants "knowingly and actively" participated in Autofocus's "systematic, endemic fabrication of evidence".

Yet when Accident Exchange took the matter to the police, they weren't interested.

It took the tenacity of Accident Exchange chief executive Steve Evans to bring these professional liars to justice in a civil action.

The defendants are due to be sentenced later this month.

'It was a systematic, endemic fabrication of evidence'

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EXPOSED Autofocus team leader Nathan George-Broom
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Title Annotation:Features; Opinion Column
Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Jun 1, 2017
Words:583
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