International - Written by on Wednesday, April 27, 2011 15:26 - 2 Comments

SFO GC resigns: SFO future cast into further doubt

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We’re delighted to congratulate Vivian Robinson QC on his reported move today from the SFO to join a US law firm, Richmond Virginia headquartered McGuire Woods, in the near future.  We’ve enjoyed working together with Vivian over recent months and look forward to doing so during the remainder of his time at the SFO.

Vivian’s move places in the spotlight once again the current uncertainty surrounding the future of the SFO.

Vivian’s departure will be a significant loss to the SFO and follows a number of other recent high profile departures from the agency.

We wrote in February that when it comes to corporate crime – in the Whitehall corridors of power: the fight is on.  The story related to the bare knuckle fight within the UK government about the future of the SFO and a combined investigatory and prosecutorial agency.

The UK’s The Lawyer magazine picked up on the same story this week.

The opinion

The present uncertainty surrounding the SFO is extremely damaging.

As we said in February the US DOJ has reportedly voiced its fears about the splitting of prosecution and investigatory functions on the basis that this could pose a risk to current and future prosecutions.  Other British law officials are reported to have voiced similar concerns.

We share them.

The Roskill Report was the catalyst for the formation of the Serious Fraud Office. It had as its central plank the necessity for the agency investigating complex fraud to have a combined investigative and prosecutorial role.

The objective was to fix a broken system which was archaic, cumbersome and unreliable and where serious frauds were not capable of being successfully investigated and prosecuted in the UK.

Jessica De Grazia, the former New York prosecutor, who conducted the review of the SFO and its work just two and half years ago concluded that the combined prosecution and investigatory role of the SFO was key and agreed with the Roskill report 30 years earlier.

Against this back drop we do not understand the sense in turning the clock back 30 years.

At best people are playing politics and creating uncertainty for UK PLC.  This benefits no-one.

At worst, cynics might argue that having failed to kill off the Bribery Act those arguing for the splitting of the SFO’s investigation and prosecution function are seeking to achieve the same outcome, namely the neutering of the impact of the Bribery Act.

Either way, with the coming into force of the Bribery Act less than three months away, the uncertainty surrounding the future of the lead prosecution agency could not come at a worse time.

Image © Crown Copyright 2011




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