Chief of Serious Fraud Office pushes to retain independence

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Sep 05, 2017
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David Green, QC, said that other countries would "fill the void" if Britain lost its focus on fighting corporate crime

Chris Harris for The Times

Britain must prioritise fraud investigations after Brexit, the head of the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) said yesterday.

David Green, QC, added that the current model of a separate Serious Fraud Office was best placed to tackle that work.

The government is deciding whether to incorporate the SFO into the National Crime Agency, as proposed in the Conservative general election manifesto this year. Green accepted that such decisions were a matter for ministers and were "in hand”.

However, he told the Cambridge International Symposium on economic crime that the SFO "uniquely both investigates and prosecutes … Our role is to take on the most serious and complex cases of fraud and commercial bribery, which are best dealt with on the Roskill model [combining investigation and prosecution]”.

A common factor in its investigations, such as those involving the Libor-rigging scandal, Rolls-Royce, Tesco and Barclays, was that the "'apparent criminality undermines UK plc commercial or financial interests in general or the City of London in particular”, Green said, adding: "Whilst priorities will be for others to decide, I have no doubt that the investigation and prosecution of commercial bribery, corporate fraud and misconduct should and will remain a priority for UK law enforcement.”

After Brexit, inward investment and economic prosperity would continue to need the certainty of the rule of law, a level playing field and properly functioning markets, he said. He also warned that if the UK took its foot off the pedal on corporate crime and commercial bribery, others would “fill the void”.

"The Department of Justice in Washington is not shy about enforcing the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act against foreign companies. If we don't, they will. It is surely right that the UK should lead enforcement in relation to UK companies or companies with strong connections here.”

  • The fraud trial of three senior former executives at Tesco has been delayed by three weeks, it was reported yesterday. The trial of Carl Rogberg, the supermarket chain’s former finance director, Christopher Bush, the former UK managing director, and John Scouler, Tesco’s former director for food, is understood to have been relisted for September 25, according to a report in The Lawyer magazine.
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