News & what's on - Written by on Wednesday, April 30, 2014 4:32 - 0 Comments

SFO School Report. B-. Could do better.

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Olga Tocewicz

By Olga Tocewicz, Associate Pinsent Masons

The Serious Fraud Office (‘SFO’), the UK’s primary fraud prosecution agency has received a lacklustre ranking by international regulators and prosecutors assessing how well analogous agencies handle cases and evidence.

In the category of “due process” in the Global Investigations Review (‘GIR’) Due Process Guide 2014, the SFO achieved a “Grade B”. GIR asked hundreds of investigations specialists around the world to share their views of the investigative and prosecutorial processes of the government agencies they regularly deal with. Based on these responses, plus feedback from the agencies themselves, each organisation was profiled and assigned a grade from A+ to C-.

A total of 26 government enforcement agencies around the world were considered. While the respondents noted that the SFO was well respected, they remarked on the length of time (somewhere between two to three years) the agency took to investigate cases. Much of the spotlight also fell on recent high-profile blunders, such as the bungled investigation into the Tchenguiz brothers and the collapse of the trial of Victor Dahdaleh in December 2013, both emphasising problems with case management.

The results of the GIR Due Process Guide were released just days after the Director of the Serious Fraud Office, David Green, issued an unprecedented public rejection of criticisms from Judge Nicholas Loraine-Smith who presided over the agency’s failed attempts to bring a high profile bribery conviction in the prosecution of Belgravia-based businessman Victor Dahdaleh.

The grade achieved by the SFO in the GIR 2014 Due Process Guide places the agency in the same ranking as the EU’s competition watchdog and France’s public prosecutors.

Standout in the rankings was the UK’s financial watchdog, the Financial Conduct Authority (‘FCA’), which scored a straight “A” grade sitting top of the class alongside its US counterpart, the Securities and Exchange Commission. Notably, the SFO’s £36.6 million annual budget is funded by the taxpayer whist the FCA’s £430m is industry funded.

In other news publication of the latest report from the  HM Crown Prosecution Service Inspectorate of the Serious Fraud Office trailed in their 2012 report (which we reported on here) is anticipated soon.  The Daily Telegraph reported earlier this month that the SFO was disputing the content and quoted an SFO spokesman as saying:

“The Inspectorate inspected SFO by invitation between April and May 2012… HMCPSI returned to SFO between November 2013 and February 2014 for a follow-up inspection to assess progress against these recommendations. As is usual, the Inspectorate have provided SFO with a document headed ‘Emerging Findings’ and that document is the subject of discussion between ‘inspector’ and ‘inspected’.” 

A spokesman for the Attorney General’s Office was reported by the Telegraph as saying:

“The Inspectorate is in the final stages of preparing its follow-up report into the Serious Fraud Office, and it is due to be published by the summer.”

We wait with baited breath…


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