News & what's on - Written by on Thursday, May 3, 2012 13:08 - 0 Comments

More SFO strategy revealed…our six picks

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As the days pass a picture is emerging of the blueprint David Green QC has for the SFO going forward:

1. Significant strategic targets

“We need to redefine what an SFO case is … When our resources are finite they must be concentrated on strategic rather than across the board.”

2. A surgical approach

A “surgical” and not a “sprawling” approach to investigations has been signaled and more prosaic investigations and prosecutions ruled out.

3. A focus on top end fraud

“The SFO needs to do the type of investigation it is best equipped to do. Is it really the SFO’s business to do [routine boiler room and mortgage frauds]?”

“There are others out there such as the Crown Prosecution Service who are well able to do that kind of prosecution.”

4. A tough approach

At the same time the new Director has spoken of a “need to rebalance the focus between prosecution and civil settlement.” While some might conclude that this view is inconsistent with the new Director’s 100% backing for Deferred Prosecution Agreements this would be wrong.

While DPA’s may be the carrot (along with the potential for a more favourable outcome) the threat of a harder prosecutorial stand is the stick.  The message is clear.  The SFO is looking for scalps to act as a warning for others.

5. Overseas corruption still a priority

He has also confirmed that big corruption cases overseas where UK corporates are disadvantaged are in the SFO’s sights.

6. Pay to play

We have often wondered why less has been made of the so-called ‘incentive scheme’.

Mr. Green’s somewhat cryptic reference to being “all in favour of prosecuting authorities being funded, to a greater or lesser extent, by money taken from criminals” may well be a reference to this scheme.  If so, the SFO’s dwindling budget may be less of an issue than some might think.

As we wrote in January last year:

“As Lord Justice Thomas highlighted in Innospec (para 36 ii):

“Under what is somewhat surprisingly called an “incentive scheme”, the proceeds obtained from a confiscation order are, once collected by the Ministry of Justice, distributed to the Home Office in accordance with an agreed protocol with HM Treasury. That confiscation income is then distributed by the Home Office who retain 50% passing 18.75% to the prosecuting authority and 18.75% to the investigating authority and 12.5% to Her Majesty’s Court Service.

As the Serious Fraud Office is both the investigating and prosecuting authority, 37.5% of the confiscation amount in this case would go to the SFO, it would form part of the income of the Office.””

Never under-estimate your opponent.


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