A LEADING fraud solicitor has warned that new internet monitoring powers could see authorities trawling business people's online activities for evidence of wrongdoing.
Aziz Rahman, founder of fraud and business crime specialist solicitors Rahman Ravelli, believes government plans to track people's phone or internet use could see many innocent traders coming under scrutiny.
He said: "In cases of fraud, mobile phone records and email use can be extremely important; as such offences involve communication and conspiracy between parties - more so than any other type of offence.
"The police already have powers to obtain certain people's records under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act. But these proposed new powers give them the power to go on "fishing trips" on the off-chance that a businessman may be up to something illegal.
"They will be able to access whatever they want, put an unflattering slant on it and try and imply to the courts that someone is guilty. This person may not even be able to remember one email in a thousand or a 30-second phone call from a year ago.
"Any busy person in business would struggle to account for every email they have sent or received.
"This could easily become a measure to help the Serious Fraud Office try and improve its poor track record of convictions. And many innocent business people could come under surveillance as a result."
Proposed new powers, to be unveiled in the Queen's Speech, will allow police and intelligence officers to monitor who someone is in contact with and the websites they visit.
Internet providers will have to keep records of their customers' activities so they can be accessed by the authorities.
It raises the prospects of police or security agencies being able to monitor communications in real time on people they are investigating as well as trawling back through previous contacts.
Rahman Ravelli Solicitors are specialists in fraud, regulatory, business and complex crime cases.