The Serious Fraud Office (SFO) has been asked to investigate the activities of broker Preston Whiteside.

A Northern Ireland fraud squad spokesman said: "We can confirm that the SFO has been asked t ...

The Serious Fraud Office (SFO) has been asked to investigate the activities of broker Preston Whiteside.

A Northern Ireland fraud squad spokesman said: "We can confirm that the SFO has been asked to take on an investigation concerning the activities of Preston Whiteside.

"The Northern Ireland fraud unit, the South Yorkshire Fraud Squad and the Leicestershire fraud squad, in conjunction with the SFO, are currently looking at taking on an investigation.

"There are several hundred SMEs across the UK, including many in Northern Ireland, that are potentially injured parties."

Although a number of Northern Ireland brokers placed business through Preston Whiteside, the spokesman said there was "no suspicion of widespread complicity".

An SFO spokesman said: "I can confirm we have had a file concerning Preston Whiteside passed to us by the Northern Ireland Police Service.

"We are currently considering whether it falls within our remit."

Earlier this year, Northern Ireland-based broker Laing & Co accused Preston Whiteside of accepting clients' premiums without placing cover. Laing & Co managing director Stuart Laing said: "I've realised Preston Whiteside has been collecting clients' money and not placing the cover."

Preston Whiteside denied these charges, saying it was providing a full return of premiums to all Northern Ireland-based clients.

Laing & Company subsequently had Preston Whiteside's assets frozen in the High Court.

Preston Whiteside was recently renamed Preston Roberts.

Preston Roberts company secretary Tina Ward this week refuted press reports that the broker's bank account had been frozen.

In February this year, Leicestershire broker JR Carrigan was accused by NIG of being involved in "unauthorised activities" in conjunction with Preston Whiteside. The allegations concerned the operations of JR Carrigan & Son in relation to NIG's tradesman insurance scheme.

JR Carrigan "strenuously refutes" any allegations of wrongdoing.