Use more robots in fraud investigations, SFO chief tells MPs

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Dec 14, 2017
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Artificial intelligence was used to sift through 30 million documents in a Rolls-Royce corruption investigation

Paul Ellis/Reuters

Artificial intelligence should be used in corruption investigations to sift through large volumes of documents, the head of Britain’s anti-fraud agency said yesterday.

David Green, QC, the head of the Serious Fraud Office (SFO), would like use of artificial intelligence to be “carefully examined” after the technology was deployed to sift through a cache of 30 million documents disclosed by Rolls-Royce during an investigation into contract procurement.

In his last appearance before MPs before stepping down in April, Green rejected suggestions that his agency would lose independence if Home Office plans for a new economic crime centre were enacted.

The SFO director told the Commons justice committee it was “pretty clear” that his agency would continue as an independent body after the government dropped plans to have it taken into the National Crime Agency. He insisted that the new body had no greater powers to direct the Serious Fraud Office than already existed.

Green said 30 million mostly digital documents had been referred to the SFO from Rolls Royce, which had then been sifted using a computer algorithm which had the ability to learn as it went along.

The aim was to find legally privileged documents which could not be used in the case, he said. This was done in a tenth of the time that it would have taken 30 lawyers and was “more reliable than human intervention”.

Rolls-Royce struck a deferred prosecution agreement with the SFO at the beginning of this year. 

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