Fraud levels in the Midlands have fallen back after rocketing during the second half of 2005.

But experts have warned that the region "has simply been lucky of late" and that local businesses should guard against complacency.

According to KPMG Forensic's Fraud Barometer, 19 cases totalling £21 million-worth of losses were recorded across the region in the first six months of this year. That compares with 27 cases involving losses of £141 million in the last six months of 2005.

The region's tally this year would have been even less had it not included the guilty verdict passed against William Jeffrey, a former director of Transtec, who was convicted of a £10 million accounting fraud that dated back to 1998.

Nationally, the surge in business crime recorded in the second half of 2005 continued unabated into 2006, with more fraud - totalling £653 million - in six months than in the whole of most recent years, KPMG Forensic said.

Charlie Patrick, a director with KPMG Forensic in Birmingham, said: "Unfortunately, fraud seems to be reaching new heights now on a national level, although we can take some comfort in the Midlands from the falling number of cases and the lower value of those frauds uncovered and prosecuted in the region. However, we should not be lulled into a false sense of security by these figures.

"On a national level, the past 12 months have seen the value of cases in the Barometer more than double from the previous 12-month period.

"As other regions have seen, it only takes a couple of large cases to send the regional figures spiralling upwards."

Apart from the Transtec ruling, other expensive examples which came to trial in the West Midlands included that of a Staffordshire landlord who was jailed for two years in February on a series of tax fraud charges and ordered to pay £3.36 million.

The value of frauds prosecuted nationally was increased by some large "super-cases", such as a £200 million prosecution over the collapse of investment firm Imperial Consolidated and a £100 million case over alleged attempts by firms and suppliers to defraud the NHS through a drug price-fixing scam.