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Serious Fraud Office publishes annual report

The Serious Fraud Office (‘SFO’) presented its annual report to Parliament on 20 July 2016.  Established in 1988, the body investigates complex, data heavy, technically and legally challenging cases under the scrutiny of the Attorney General rather than the Home Office. The annual report shows promising statistics for the body’s survival under Theresa May's premiership.  As Home Secretary, Mrs May has previously mooted the SFO's merger with the National Crime Agency.

In a statement David Green QC, the director of the SFO, cites 12 new investigations and three new civil recovery proceedings brought in the year 2015-16. This includes the much reported investigation into Quindell the insurance outsourcer. These cases originate from whistle-blowers, informants, corporate self-reporting (perhaps the most encouraged source), referral from other prosecuting bodies or proactive analysis of the SFO’s own intelligence.

The SFO has notably entered into two Deferred Prosecution Agreements (‘DPA’) in the last year, under schedule 17 of the Crime and Courts Act 2013, effectively suspending a prosecution post-charge if terms are met by the corporate Defendant.  This, in effect, incentivises self-reporting and making steps of reparation to avoid the collateral reputational damage of a publicised trial and sanctions that could be imposed.  Far from ‘cutting a deal’ these agreements require judicial oversight and approval and "must be in the interests of justice".  The judge in the latter case stated that the case “provides an example of the value of self-report and cooperation,” which effectively saves the taxpayer a great deal of money, recovers the proceeds of the crime, and assists the prosecution of individuals.

Confiscation orders in the sum of £3.4million were obtained and £19.6million was recovered in respect of outstanding orders. The report cites that this makes up 11% of the total amount recovered in UK prosecutions that year and is a 110% increase on the amount seized in 2010-11.

It is anticipated that the SFO will survive in it current form.  The DPA system may see a shift in the way cases are prosecuted, saving public money and incentivising corporate self-reporting and cooperation.

A full copy of the SFO report can be found here.

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