Bribery Act & Proceeds of Crime - Written by on Sunday, October 5, 2014 23:45 - 0 Comments

BREAKING: OPINION: SFO faces disastrous new closure threat from Theresa May at the Home Office

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398px-Theresa_May_-_Home_Secretary_and_minister_for_women_and_equalityThe Financial Times reports that Theresa May MP Home Office minister is mounting a fresh campaign to close down the UK Serious Fraud Office and have serious fraud the responsibility of the National Crime Agency.  Present SFO employees would, under the plans, be scattered around various existing government departments.

Some have questioned the motives of seeking to close down the SFO.

The Director of the SFO David Green arrived just over two years ago with a four year remit to sort out the SFO after a series of high profile mistakes.  It is generally considered that he has done a good job in cleaning up previous mistakes and that this year marked a turnaround in the agency’s fortunes.

When he arrived it was widely understood that there would be a reconsideration of the agency’s performance based on the results achieved during Mr. Green’s stewardship at the end of his four year term.

In recent months the agency has seen a number of successful prosecutions, settlement of the Tchenguiz litigation and a focus on top end fraud and corruption with the instigation of big new fraud investigations.  Morale at the SFO was, until this latest challenge, reported to be good.

The SFO is now involved in investigating and prosecuting some massive cases.  In a recent speech the Director outlined his top 10, they included a series of investigations involving the financial services sector (FOREX and LIBOR) and household name companies Barclays, Rolls Royce, GSK, G4S, Serco and Alstom.

With the agency surrounded by fresh uncertainty these investigations and prosecutions are now placed in jeopardy.

“We had this argument two or three years ago and all rational debate clearly suggested the SFO should remain an independent investigating prosecutor.

“David Green has got the SFO travelling forward with a sense of purpose. To distract it with having to fight off the NCA now, in the middle of the Libor criminal trial, would in my opinion be a disaster and damage the criminal justice system in the area of financial crime.”

Said Edward Garnier, former Solicitor General yesterday, responding to FT Reports that the Serious Fraud Office is once again under attack.

A Spokesperson for the SFO said: “The SFO’s specialist teams of investigators, prosecutors and other experts are now vigorously pursuing the most serious suspected economic crime, including Libor and Forex rate-rigging. We know of no evidence which suggests that breaking up these teams and putting investigators and prosecutors into different organisations would be more effective.”

While there has been tough talk from government on fighting economic crime the SFO has been subject to various attacks, directly and indirectly, for years with assaults on its funding and direct challenges to close it by the Home Office.

The last attempt to close down the SFO by Theresa May at the Home Office in 2011 was viewed by some as a turf war.  The SFO is the responsibility of the Attorney General’s Office while other criminal law enforcement is, broadly speaking, the responsibility of the Home Office.  At the time Ken Clarke QC MP then Anti-corruption champion and Dominic Grieve QC MP then Attorney General defended the agency.  Both have since been removed from government.

Opinion

This moment would be exactly the wrong moment in history to shut down the SFO.

A fresh challenge on the SFO at this time risks stalling some of the most important and biggest fraud and corruption investigations and prosecutions ever mounted by the SFO.

Good news if you are being investigated for fraud or bribery by the SFO.  Bad news for UK PLC.

 

 

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