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SFO unveils annual report

SFO unveils annual report


The UK's Serious Fraud Office reveals that corporate fines and recoveries total more than four times its £78.6m annual budget.

The SFO laid the report before parliament on 18 July, after the agency's financial statements and certain sections of its accountability report had been audited by the National Audit Office. The report comes just two months before the departure of director Lisa Osofsky.

The agency highlights the £280m fine it secured against mining company Glencore for paying US$29m in bribes to gain preferential access to oil in Africa. On top of that, it recovered "£95+ million in connection to crimes investigated by the SFO and partner agencies".

Osofsky says in her introduction to the report: "As I complete my term as the eighth Director of the SFO, I feel privileged to have led the organisation in achieving 29 convictions, eight deferred prosecution agreements amounting to over £1 billion, and over £150 million seized from criminals. I am also proud to have forged stronger international relationships. This has borne spectacular results on cases such as Airbus and, as covered in this report, Glencore, and will continue to bear fruit in many of our investigations."

Commenting on the report, Louise Hodges, head of criminal litigation at Kingsley Napley, says:

“The SFO has achieved some high-profile results over the past year, as noted in the report. However, the SFO has also come in for considerable criticism, particularly in relation to its handling of disclosure and its record of bringing successful cases against individuals. As the SFO prepares to welcome a new director, it is encouraging to see the agency objectively assessing its performance, admitting that there are changes needed, and placing its focus on its people, in particular recruitment and retention.

“The report notes that the SFO currently has 35 criminal cases open. Over the next year, as well as opening further cases, it will be crucial for the SFO to demonstrate its ability to progress these cases, and where appropriate, bring them to robust and justifiable conclusions.

“Defendants are currently facing unacceptably long periods of stress and uncertainty as they wait for investigations to be resolved or decisions to be made – there are incidents where individuals who have been interviewed as suspects can wait for years with no contact from the SFO. The SFO must work hard to improve the current average of four years which it takes from formally opening an investigation to reaching the first outcome.

“There is also reference in the report to His Majesty’s Crown Prosecution Service Inspectorate (HMCPSI)’s commitment to expedite a review of the SFO’s approach to disclosure. The outcome of this review should be watched very closely.”