Police raided an accident management company and a firm of solicitors in Derbyshire this week that were suspected of processing “hundreds of thousands of pounds” of fraudulent motor claims.
Dozens of intermediaries across the UK are likely to be involved in the forthcoming investigation.
Detectives seized hundreds of claims files from the company, its solicitors and the home of one of the company's directors last Thursday, as part of a 14-month police investigation.
Investigators from the office for the supervision of solicitors assisted in the raid on the firm of solicitors.
No arrests or charges have yet been made.
The probe was triggered after insurance investigators Ravenstone UK handed police a comprehensive dossier in 1999, detailing allegations of fraud. The firm continues to work with police on the case.
Ravenstone UK managing director Bob Barnett said: “The police do not usually deal with insurance fraud.
“But in this case we presented them with a fait accompli by collating a great deal of evidence in an easily readable form over a 12-month period.”
Det Sgt Dave McDonald of Derbyshire Constabulary fraud squad, who is leading the investigation, said: “We have seized some 800 individual claims files and are currently sifting through these for potential evidence.”
He believes the alleged fraud could have netted “hundreds of thousands of pounds” from insurers.
There are indications that the accident management company under investigation had processed claims from as far away as Preston and Bristol, he said.
Among these, McDonald suspects, are personal injury claims involving “phantom” passengers – bogus claims from people who were not in a car when it suffered an accident.
However, he stressed his team had not as yet uncovered any evidence that any accidents had been staged or contrived by the company.
“We suspect there has been a degree of collusion between some clients and the accident management company. But we will not know this for certain until we obtain more information from the seized files and this process could take several months,” McDonald explained.
He and his team of three fraud squad detectives are investigating allegations that the company had also been involved in making inflated or multiple claims for car hire.
This is believed to have involved members of the accident management company and its associates billing insurers for hire vehicles they themselves were using.
McDonald stressed that in many cases individual claimants appeared “blissfully” unaware of the amounts being claimed on their behalf by the accident management company for their car hire.
He said: “A large number of drivers we have interviewed said they did not know what the accident management company was doing.”
The accident management company in question ceased trading last November.
But McDonald said its managing directors were suspected of transferring some of the old company's files to a series of new accident management companies that have been used to continue trading up to the present day.