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Former City lawyer charged with fraud over missing Commonwealth money

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His wife, a fellow lawyer and anti-corruption expert, also faces separate charges

An international lawyer who worked in the City and at the headquarters of the Commonwealth has been charged with fraud.

Joshua Brien, 47, a former special counsel for US outfit Cooley, appeared at Westminster Magistrates’ Court on 4 August to face three counts of “fraud by abuse of position”.

His wife and fellow lawyer, anti-corruption expert Melissa Khemani, also faces separate charges.

Both used to work for the Commonwealth, an international club originally for ex-British colonies, at its London headquarters.

Brien, an expert on the law of the sea, worked for the organisation between 2010 and 2016, according to the Times. He joined Cooley as a special counsel in 2016 and is listed as a “rising star” in public international law in the Legal 500 rankings.

As well as fraud by abuse of position, the Australian lawyer faces allegations of acquiring criminal property, fraudulent misrepresentation and “possession of an article for use in the course of or in connection with fraud”. The Metropolitan Police said that all the charges “relate to offences alleged to have taken place between 23 December 2014 and 29 October 2019 whilst he was employed as a legal advisor or special counsel”.

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Specifically, Brien is accused of stealing over £150,000 from the Commonwealth and lying about being sacked for gross misconduct in a 2017 job application, the Times reports.

Melissa Khemani, 40, a Canadian lawyer married to Brien, is charged with two counts of acquiring/using/possessing criminal property. The King’s College London graduate has worked in the compliance department of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development and as a legal adviser on anti-corruption at the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

Before that, Khemani worked at Commonwealth HQ, helping members to implement the United Nations Convention against Corruption.

Brien was bailed to appear at Southwark Crown Court on 1 September, while Khemani is back in the mags on 22 October, police said in a statement.

The Commonwealth is led by Patricia Scotland QC, a former family lawyer who became the first female Attorney General under the last Labour government. She has previously been criticised over governance failings at the organisation, with the UK government suspending some of its membership payments earlier this year after auditors flagged concerns about procurement and financial controls.

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