Companies Investigations Branch

The Companies Investigations Branch (CIB) conducts non-criminal investigations into the conduct of companies.  They can investigate and prosecute a range of offences, such as: 

  • Wrongdoing by a bankrupt
  • Malpractice by company officers before and during the winding up / liquidation of a limited liability company;
  • Phoenix companies frauds;
  • Breach of directors disqualification orders, bankruptcy orders and bankruptcy restriction orders;
  • Fraudulent trading;
  • Malpractice by company directors in relation to the keeping and preservation of company accounting records.

CIB carries out investigations, most commonly under section 447 Companies Act 1985. Most of its investigations are into companies that are actively trading. Evidence which comes to light during regulatory investigations may form the basis of subsequent criminal proceedings. Interviews conducted under section 447 are compulsory and failure to comply with questioning under this section may result in a finding of contempt of Court which could result in a term of imprisonment of up to 2 years, a fine or both. Also, under section 451 of the Act, if an individual under investigation provides false information, they may also be imprisoned for a term up to two years, a fine, or both. The powers under the Companies Act are similar to those given to the SFO and the FSA. A statement obtained during a regulatory investigation may not be used in evidence against an individual unless it is brought out by the person under investigation, or in relation to criminal proceeding under the Purgery Act, or for an offence under section 451.

If the CIB decide to instigate criminal proceedings, in most cases, the investigation will include an invitation to an “interview under caution” for the person suspected of criminality. The CIB however cannot compel a suspect to attend the interview. It is imperative when under investigation by the CIB, and you have been asked to attend an interview under caution, that you contact a specialist criminal defence solicitor as soon as possible. You will be able to obtain advice as to the best course of action at the interview or whether it is in your interests to attend at all.

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