News & what's on - Written by on Tuesday, June 24, 2014 6:09 - 0 Comments

BREAKING: 1st UK Anti-corruption plan imminent & corporate crime laws under review

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healdSpeaking at the C5 Anti-Corruption conference this morning Oliver Heald the UK’s Solicitor General announced that the UK’s first anti-corruption plan will be published in the next few weeks.

The announcement comes of the back of a pledge reportedly made last year.

In a sneak preview the Solicitor General disclosed that much in the report will be about improving coordination across law enforcement and government agencies  and fast response.

So, rumours of the demise of the SFO are premature.

Indeed we hear on the grapevine that the future of the SFO is safe.

The move was trailed a couple of weeks ago by Caroline Binham at the Financial Times but was elaborated on by the Solicitor General.  Commenting, ‘watch this space’ the Solicitor General telegraphed that publication is imminent.

The Solicitor General said that improving the detection of illicit money and rooting out corruption were key targets of the government in the UK and elsewhere.

The FT reported that the Serious Fraud Office, National Crime Agency, FCA and City Of London Police Overseas Anti-Corruption Unit are all under review.  Against that backdrop it is interesting that the Solicitor General confirmed that the National Crime Agency commands a key role.

Ken Clarke, anti corruption champion previously telegraphed a potential significant increase in the budget for investigating white collar crime saying:

“We will have to face up to the fact that we will have to look at funding…the one difficulty with enforcing really serious frauds of international significance is that they are hugely expensive and costly to investigate and prosecute.”  

Mr Heald was not so forthcoming.  Answering a question about funding Mr. Heald said that as the ministerial group looks at this more fully obviously it will look at what’s required.  A woolly answer indeed.

The Solicitor General also said he agreed with the need to review whether corporate criminal liability laws should be revised to make it easier to prosecute companies and confirmed that officials are considering the issue though indicated that new legislation would be unlikely before the election in 2015.

Opinion

Better coordination among UK and international law enforcement is to be welcomed.  In austere times it makes no sense for agencies like the SFO and City of London Police to duplicate work.

There is a place for the Serious Fraud Office in its present guise in the investigation and prosecution of serious fraud and bribery.  But coordination is only a part of the problem, another key ingredient will be cash.

Government needs to invest more in investigating and prosecuting white collar crime.

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