Stop and Search

‘Please, I have a family!’ he begged. He had the usual look of an accountant, dishevelled three piece suit, black Oxfords worn from use, a shirt that was once white and a tie that barely held together. He kept turning his bowler hat round and around in his hands, shaking slightly, his face ashen. The two officers glanced at each other, and one sighed. ‘Look. We know you are just a small time accountant’s assistant. We don’t want to have to convict you. We want the people at the top of the corporation. If you can help us get to them, we can protect you.’ ‘No-one can be protected from them.’ He said staring into the middle distance with glazed eyes. ‘No one.’

They’d picked him up at the edge of Canary Warf at dusk, walking along a back road behind imposing office buildings. They always had officers stationed there, it was an area known for the worst rates of tax fraud in the entire city. He fit the profile exactly; early thirties, white, office clothes, carrying a black leather briefcase. He was the sixth person they’d stopped that shift. The others were all clean, protesting under their breaths about stereotypes and discrimination, but they were older. Probably knew the area better, knew how to hide or keep the incriminating documents in a drop spot to avoid getting caught. This one was younger, obviously new to the corporate world. He looked terrified as soon as he saw them, his voice wavering as he answered their questions in the typical ‘received pronunciation’ accent of the financial district. They found the document they needed to take him in within a clever hidden pocket in the lining of his suit jacket, a slit carefully positioned directly behind the standard inside pocket. If they hadn’t seen it before, they might have missed it. It wasn’t much, just an incorrectly filled out page from the longer tax assessment form, but it was enough coupled with his suspicious behaviour to end up back at the station. The key thing though, was the company name Maranon – an online retailer long suspected of evading billions of pounds of tax.

Maranon was well known for it’s use of accountancy firms in the financial district to find any and all possible tax loopholes, and there had been rumours of numerous off-shore accounts involved in money laundering since the Bahama Books were leaked to The Custodian newspaper earlier in the year. But as always, there was not enough evidence to charge the people at the top causing the real harm. Instead, prisons were filled with white men in their thirties who were just accountancy assistants, administrators and PA’s who had been caught with a document or two when officers used their ‘stop and search’ powers in the area. The law had recently been strengthened since the governments’ zero tolerance campaign helped get them into power, but the police were yet to prove it’s effectiveness by bringing in a recognisable major corporation leader.

One of the officers waved a brown A4 file in front of the accountancy assistant’s face. ‘Do you know what the people you work for are responsible for?’ they asked. They set the file down on the table and opened it, pushing it towards the frightened man. It was filled with pictures of people looking exhausted and hopeless. ‘These people are waiting for the food bank to open. Not all of them are going to be able to get a package.’ They flipped another picture over ‘This is a hospital A&E waiting room. These people wait for an average of 8 hours to get treated. And this nurse’ they said, pointing to the blurry image of a person crouched down next to a patient ‘has been working for 48 hours without a break, because there aren’t enough nurses to cover them for even 15 minutes.’ They flipped another picture, showing an elderly lady in a stark white room propped up on her bed. ‘This lady hasn’t left this room for two weeks because there aren’t enough carers to help her.’ ‘Ok, ok’ said the man, in a resigned tone. ‘You think I don’t know this happens? You think I don’t see this all the time, where I live?’ He looked them in eye this time. ‘I just go to work, do what I’m told, and go home. I had to take this job, it was the only one I could get. They don’t tell us anything, you must know that.’ He finally stopped fiddling with his hat, and slumped in his seat. ‘If anyone saw me with you, I’m finished anyway.’ The officers looked at each other for a moment, a glint in their eyes. They looked like they enjoyed their job. ‘Let’s start from the beginning again, shall we?’ one said.

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