News & what's on - Written by on Wednesday, May 8, 2019 1:59 - 0 Comments

SFO Raid numbers don’t tell complete story as new Director lays foundations for years ahead

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Figures provided by the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) show a reduction in their use of both property raids and powers under Section 2 of the Criminal Justice Act to compel individuals to answer questions or produce documents.

In a response to a Freedom of Information request the SFO confirmed that between 1 April 2018 and 31 March 2019 it carried out 21 property raids for the purposes of gathering evidence, a decline on the SFO’s previous financial year when over 30 were carried out.

While at first blush, it looks as though the SFO has stalled it is premature to judge.

New director, Lisa Osofsky, is beginning to make transformative changes which will make the agency a force to be reckoned with, Ms. Osofsky’s background as a former US prosecutor means she thinks very differently from previous incumbents. She has made no secret that one of the cornerstones of her plans for the SFO is to speed up its cases using US approaches to investigating white-collar crime.

Despite the numbers, the new director has signalled an intent to enter into plea deals with cooperating witnesses which would be a game changer. Although, culturally and historically plea bargains have been frowned upon in the UK by the courts the basic legal framework to implement them exists under UK law.

Other figures provided by the SFO show that between 1 April 2018 and 31 March 2019 it issued 808 notices under Section 2 a little under the number for the previous year where they numbered over 1000.

That said the last 12 months has been a year of transition for the SFO compounded with 2017/18 being a bumper year for the Agency’s use of Section 2 Notices, equivalent to US subpoena’s, where the SFO can compel the production of information from suspect companies and others.

[1]The SFO’s response states that the figures are a snapshot from the SFO’s central records which is a live record and they are maintained for business reasons and are not collated for any official statistics. As such, it is possible that (a) some notices may not have been recorded on the database and (b) the central date may be subject to ongoing change.

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