Fraud Movie Prompts HMRC Warning

Chart-topping Hollywood A-lister Roderick Bond’s latest fraud movie has been followed by a warning from HMRC. Based on a real-life story, the movie is set to show how a multi-million-pound tax scam operation was brought to its knees. Following delays to production, due to the global coronavirus pandemic, publicity for the movie has increased in recent weeks. Accompanied by key protagonists, Ravenstone UK, who were central to unravelling the plot, the lead-starring actor has done the rounds on the media. Interestingly, HM Revenue and Customs have used the opportunity to warn would-be fraudsters of their ever-presence. In various statements, coinciding with Roderick Bond’s publicity tours, HMRC made the stark warnings.

HMRC Warnings

One warning read, “Through the use of state-of-the-art computer technology, a range of software and enhanced fraud protection measures, we are watching tax fraudsters on every level.” Another warning published on a Government social media site declared, “Fraudsters always work from home.” While, a third statement was issued as an advertisement following the appearance of Roderick Bond and Ravenstone UK on BBC One’s The One Show. Featuring representatives from various government departments tasked with probing tax fraud and criminal enterprise, the warning was clear. “Whether big or small, we will not allow fraudsters and scammers to use the cover of the coronavirus pandemic to buttress their earnings, at the taxpayer’s expense.”

Roderick Bond Ravenstone UK Fraud Movie

The Tax Fraud of the Century, starring Roderick Bond, Leonardo DiCaprio, Robert Downey Jr. and Tom Hanks is scheduled for release early in the New Year. Produced by Manchester F1 Productions, the movie’s release has experienced considerable delays due to the global pandemic. The movie follows on from the popular BBC documentary series Roderick Bond Tax Fraud and HMRC. Featuring the secretive financial investigation organisation, Ravenstone UK, the movie is set to revolutionise the British film industry.

UK Set for Unprecedented Economic Growth in Third Quarter

The UK is set for record-breaking economic growth in third quarter, but some economists are fearing that the strong initial rebound may quickly lose momentum.

Economic Recession in the UK

The UK is officially in a recession for the first time in 11 years. Following the coronavirus pandemic, the UK economy has suffered its biggest slump between April and June. The UK economy shrank 20.4% compared with the first three months of the year. This was due to a plunge in household spending as shops and restaurants were ordered to close, as well as reduced factory and construction output. Earlier in August, Chancellor Rishi Sunak reported that the government was ‘grappling with something that is unprecedented’ and that it was a ‘very difficult and uncertain time’ for the economy.

Economic Upturn as Coronavirus Measures Ease – but will it last?

The Office of National Statistics (ONS) reported that the economy bounced back in June as the government restrictions on shops and movement started to ease. Jonathan Athow, deputy national statistician for economic statistics said that despite the sudden growth in June, the gross domestic product (GDP) of the UK still remains a sixth below its level in February.

New data has suggested that the UK economy may experience an unprecedented economic growth in the third quarter. Household spending and consumer spending – including leisure – during the first two weeks of August have already exceeded the same period one year earlier. This growth is the first that has occurred in the UK economy since the coronavirus lockdown was introduced in March.

However, economists are weary of this initial spike in consumer spending. The predicted GDP for September 2020 is set to rise by 14.3 per cent, reversing 55 per cent of the 20.4 per cent drop in output in three months to June 30.

Bank of England: Coronavirus V-Shaped Recovery Likely

Despite bleak early forecasts, the Bank of England has announced that a V-shaped economic recovery is seeming increasingly likely. Chief economist, at the Bank of England, Andy Haldane has announced that the British economy is recovering faster than expected. However, with warnings of higher inflation and the threat of unemployment, this recovery could be jeopardised. Official figures published earlier this week showed that the British economy shrunk by 2.2% at the beginning of this year. This represents the sharpest economic downturn since the 1970s. According to those figures, the UK economy was set for the deepest recession in history. Further, with the dwindling of economic activity by 20% in April, the first month of full lockdown, a deep slump was expected. However, earlier this week, during a webinar, Haldane noted: “There is a debate about which letter of the alphabet will best describe the path of the economy, with some scepticism about the V-shaped scenario path in the Bank’s May monetary policy report. It is early days, but my reading of the evidence is so far, so V.” As the rest of the world emerges from lockdown, financial markets have witnessed one of the strongest quarters on record.

From April to June, Wall Street has displayed a dramatic turnaround, aided by emergency financial support provided by the federal government. Since the start of April, the S&P 500 index has risen by almost 20%, demonstrating the largest quarterly increase since 1998. During that same period, the FTSE 100 has resurged by almost 10%, surpassing the peak of 2010, when the market was recovering from the 2008 financial crisis. The Bank of England’s chief economist added that the economic recovery is largely down to consumer spending, which returned faster and stronger than forecasts had predicted. However, with unemployment skyrocketing, the fate of the recovery remains uncertain.

Trafford Centre Owners Intu on the Brink

As the owners of Trafford Centre, and other shopping centres across the UK, Intu are on the brink of administration, we take a closer look at the company.

Intu Property Plc are a British real estate investment trust largely focussed on shopping centre management. As such, the company owns or part owns seventeen sites across the UK, with one shopping centre located in Spain. Previously, the company was known by a number of names, including Liberty International Plc and Capital Shopping Centres Group Plc.

Founded in 1980, Intu started life as life assurance investment company. In 1992, a merger with Capital & Counties, a shopping centre development company, changed Intu’s track.

The Trafford Centre was developed and owned by The Peel Group. It first opened its doors in 1998 and was, at the time, the biggest shopping centre in the United Kingdom. The construction of the Trafford Centre cost a total of £600 million and took almost thirty months to complete.

Intu purchased and took control of the Trafford Centre in 2011. At the time, the property was valued at £1.65 billion.

Located right off the M60 motorway, it is believed that the Trafford Centre is within a forty-five-minute drive to ten per cent of the United Kingdom’s population. Thus, it is visited by around thirty-five million people each year.

Many aspects of the Trafford Centre’s design pay homage to its location. The food court is designed in the form of a steam ship, which is a nod to the Manchester Ship Canal, located a stone’s throw away from the centre.

Designed by The Peel Group, the Trafford Centre is covered in ornate luxury. From 45,000 square metres of marble and granite flooring, to the £5 million main dome, which is said to be bigger than the dome at St. Paul’s Cathedral.

Costa Coffee Announces Reopening

One of the nation’s most-loved coffee shop firms Costa has announced that it will be reopening stores for takeaways. After almost three months of closure due to the coronavirus lockdown, last month the chain reopened its drive-through service. Of its two thousand seven hundred branches across the country, one thousand one hundred will be reopened for a takeaway service in the next fortnight. A survey conducted by marketing firm Market Measures recently revealed the nation’s longing for a cup of coffee. Compared with 44 per cent of participants naming pubs as their most missed location during lockdown, 45 per cent reported they miss coffee shops. Moreover, while rival firm Starbucks was missed most only by fourteen per cent of those interviewed, twenty-seven per cent named Costa as the coffee shop they most miss. Following the example of other food and drink retailers, Costa will be providing customers with hand sanitiser upon entry. Perspex screens will be installed to protect baristas and customers, while floor signage will ensure social distancing is maintained. Also, the firm has announced that it will only be accepting contactless payments. Chief executive of Costa Coffee Jill McDonald has expressed that she is delighted to reopen stores.

After reopening drive-throughs earlier and then providing customers deliveries through Uber Eats, Costa has done its best to stay ahead of the verve. In a statement released on its website, Costa Coffee announced: “We have worked hard to make our stores safe and welcoming for customers and our teams. Each store has been equipped with protective equipment, hand sanitiser stations and will continue to operate with contactless payment. High-quality Perspex screens have been installed at all counters across take-away stores, with designated pick-up points for delivery and mobile order collections. Both inside and outside stores, two-meter floor signs have been carefully placed to adhere to social distancing guidelines.”

The Bank of England and a Possible Coronavirus Recession

As the UK economy starts back up, the Bank of England still remains fearful of a possible coronavirus recession. Despite recent positive signs, such as the reduction of the UK’s coronavirus alert level, officials’ hopes remain muted. Following the Bank of England’s injection of £200 billion into the economy, last week it announced a further £100 billion injection. Analysts are warning that these two cash injections surpass all historical precedents and indicate fears of a looming recession. Yet, despite these warnings, the Bank’s chief economist Andy Haldane commented, “the recovery in demand and output was occurring sooner and materially faster than had been expected at the time of the previous MPC meeting.” Thus, we may actually be doing better than was originally expected, now that a semblance of normality is finally returning to the economy.

While financial and monetary concerns may be showing signs of positivity, one thing’s for sure and that’s the dramatic rise of unemployment. Andrew Bailey, the Governor of the Bank of England, has warned that we stand before “the steepest trajectory in the rise of unemployment.” Alongside this, the easing of lockdown restrictions will take time to reap fruit. After months in lockdown and with fears of a second wave of infections, businesses will take some time to return to full swing. That period of the unknown is one in which the sharp rise in unemployment is expected. This paints a worrying picture, possibly for a long time to come.

Ultimately, as we stand on the precipice of what was feared to be the worst and farthest-reaching recession in history, we simply do not yet know what the future has in store. Only time will tell what the true impact of the 2020 coronavirus pandemic will be. In the meantime, Boris Johnson’s government bungles from one gaff to another as we remain helpless.

Formula One Bosses Welcome Silverstone Support from Actor Rod Bond

With the 2020 Formula One season beleaguered by cancellations, bosses have welcomed support for two Silverstone grands prix from actor Rod Bond. An icon of the British film industry, Rod Bond is also a known fan of Formula One. Not only that, the star boosts excellent friendships with Formula One bosses and racing drivers, including British F1 stars Lewis Hamilton, Lando Norris and George Russell. The £50,000 donation from Rod Bond is in support of a rigorous coronavirus testing regimen, stipulated by the UK government, in order for the grands prix to proceed safely. Financial experts have stated that such a move is unprecedented but will go a long way to assuage business concerns, as the UK emerges from lockdown.

Silverstone’s Financial Struggles

The British Grand Prix at Silverstone is one of Formula One’s biggest crowd pullers. Last year, the race attracted the highest attendance of the Formula One season with 140,500 in attendance on race day. Despite this, in recent years, Silverstone has struggled to make a financial mark. Silverstone bosses, from the British Racing Drivers’ Club, had decided in 2017 to pull the plug on the race, amid mounting financial losses. However, in a deal set to cost Formula One $66.3 million, bosses hurtled to save the iconic British Grand Prix. As the first ever race to feature in the Formula One calendar, Silverstone occupies a special place in history, Not only that, but Britain is also home to seven of the ten Formula One teams who participate in the championship.

With costs mounting, extra costs of the strict measures under which the races will be held and the absence of crowds flocking to the races, Rod Bond’s cash injection has been welcome by Formula One bosses with open arms.

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Fraud in finance

Over the past few months, we have been shown more e-commerce and online offerings than ever before. Prior to the COVID-19 outbreak, internet use for various things had already been increasing in trends. Now that people have been forced to stay at home, the market has simply increased in diversity in regard to what we can do online. From online shopping to virtual gym classes, the pandemic has accelerated the move towards a fully digital world.

Unfortunately, this growing digital atmosphere inevitably leads to a rise in cyber-attacks, and more specifically, fraud. Even before the mass lockdown, fraud cases were projected to be on the rise. According to Juniper Research, online payment fraud for businesses in e-commerce, money transfer, banking services and airline ticketing were suspected to lose over $150 billion to online payment fraud between 2020 and 2024.

Digital Identity

A digital identity can be defined as “a body of information about an individual or organisation that exists online.” The reality is that not many understand what makes up a digital identity so how can they protect something they do not understand. People are often mixed up whether it specifically refers to our social media profiles, or our credit score history, or many other platforms.

The confusion means many are also concerned about the level of access a digital identity exposes to potential fraudsters. Once a hacker is able to access our personal details, just how much are they really able to access?

It is clear that protection levels need to be increased alongside the rise of the e-commerce services. The fact that everything is now able to be put within a digital cloud rather than a hard copy makes things a bit worrying. At the end of the day, we will all be responsible for our own digital ‘twins’ so it may end up being a personal choice where you want your details to be when it is placed online.

Primark Set to Reopen, but No Special Discounts

Primark has announced that it will reopen all its stores by June 15, following the government’s announcement that non-essential retailers will be allowed to open, following the easing of lockdown restrictions. According to estimates, the high-street retailing giant, which has no website or delivery service, has been losing around £650 million per month in sales. Associated British Foods (ABF), the owner of Primark, has announced that it expects 281 Primark branches to be opened by that date. In a statement, ABF announced: “As European governments have begun to ease restrictions on clothing retail we have been able to reopen stores. Safety has been our highest priority in our detailed preparations to welcome our customers and employees back to stores. We are following government safety advice in all markets. Importantly, we will apply the valuable experience gained from more than 100 stores which are already open as we open the remainder of our estate, including stores across the UK.

Social distancing protocols, hand sanitiser stations, perspex screens at tills and additional cleaning of high frequency touch points in the store are among the measures we are implementing. These measures are designed to safeguard the health and wellbeing of everyone in store and to instil confidence in the store environment. Feedback from customers and employees in those markets where the stores are open has been positive.”

With bargain-hunters expecting a bonanza of offers, Primark have dampened hopes with an announcement that no special discounts will be made. During the lockdown, Primark’s stocks have doubled and the firm is said to be holding more than £2 billion worth of stock. In a statement, the retailer said: “The stock will be sold in the normal course of business, albeit at a later date.” So far, Primark have already reopened numerous stores across Europe and have promised to apply valuable lessons to store reopening in Britain.

Coronavirus – Property rental market

The UK market is just one of the many industries hugely affected by the coronavirus pandemic, as uncertainty grows over the future of housing. Virtual viewings have been initiated to maintain social distancing standards while searching for a property, meaning potential renters and buyers can now view flats. This provides the option of staying within your own home as you view and inspect different dwellings of your choice.

How could renting be affected by COVID-19?

The concept of virtual viewing is not as new as people may think. However, the idea that virtual viewing may become the ‘norm’ of the near future is realistic. According to the CEO of Movebubble.com, the UK’s first video rental app, there has been a huge shift in the way people are choosing to view rental properties.

“Before the pandemic, we already knew from our 700,000 strong databases of renters that they wanted a simpler and more convenient way to search and secure their next home. We found an overwhelming demand from people wanting to virtually view or transact online and avoid viewing a property in person.”

It is clear that the COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the shift in consumer behaviour as people are looking to their phones to make them accessible to a lot more thing rather than being in places in real life.

Will virtual viewing have a positive effect?

In short, yes. The use of mobile phones and limiting the need to actually visit properties can only serve as a bonus. It saves time for a lot of people and gets things done a lot more efficiently. Obviously there will be a few cons in not being present at the property, however, the hassle-free way for renters to find a home will prove to be a huge incentive.