So-called 'push payment' frauds – often involving bogus emails providing false bank account details – can be very convincing and represent a scourge on individuals and businesses alike. In a High Court case, a company alleged to have suffered one such fraud found itself under threat of a winding up petition.
The company was alleged to owe about £8,000 to one of its suppliers. It claimed to have paid the money to an account, details of which it received in an email from the supplier. On that basis, it asserted that it had paid the debt in full and that, having done so, it was not obliged to pay the same amount again. It sought an injunction, restraining the supplier from presenting a winding up petition against it.
The supplier, however, insisted that the email did not come from its office and that the payment must have been diverted as part of a push payment fraud. It asserted that two members of its staff had informed the company, before the payment was made, that they knew nothing about the email. They were alleged to have told the company that payment should be made to the account ordinarily used by the supplier, details of which appeared on the relevant invoice.
Granting the injunction sought, however, the Court noted that the email appeared on its face to have been sent by the supplier. The company disputed the debt in good faith and on substantial grounds which had a real prospect of succeeding. There were factual issues that went to the heart of the question of whether the supplier was in fact a creditor entitled to present a winding up petition. Such issues could only be resolved at a substantive hearing with full evidence presented on both sides.