Serious fraud office demands blockbuster funding to fight fraud

The Serious Fraud Office (SFO), which investigates and prosecutes high-profile cases of fraud, has asked for an additional £26.5 million from the government to aid the funding of complex inquiries including financial benchmark manipulations and high profile corruption cases in the corporate sector and has surpassed last year’s extra of injection of £24 million pounds. This would represent an increase of 75% of its budget for 2015 it is reported in the Telegraph.

A SFO spokesman, says the extra request for funds in the current financial year includes a £4.5 million pound payment to the property baron brothers Robert and Vincent Tchenguiz, in respect of investigation which collapsed and a settlement for £300 million pounds claim with extra legal costs yet to be announced.

Other cases cited are the ongoing investigations into manipulations of Libor interest rates, Barclays’ £8 billion recapitalisation in 2008 and bribery and corruption allegations linked to Rolls Royce divisions, which have proven the biggest and expensive cases eating into the SFO budget.

The SFO has just instructed its lead criminal barristers on the case of the alleged rigging of the 5.3 trillion dollars a day in the foreign-exchange market, selecting Andrew Baillie QC and Shane Collery.

David Green, the head of the SFO states that incremental increases in business crime and other white collar crime, particularly in London, justified the need for a “blockbuster funding”. SFO’s cites it “success stories” as the first conviction for the fraud related offences connected to Libor against which an estimated $450 trillion of financial contracts are pegged.

The practice of “blockbuster funding”, whereby the SFO can secure extra funds for an investigation if it is predicted that the total cost to be incurred will be more than ten percent of its annual budget, were scrapped by Green’s predecessor, Richard Alderman. However, his successor, has reinstated the practice. According to Green, blockbuster funding is a sensible provision which gets the job done.

There are however speculations and concerns about merging the SFO to the National Crime Agency, or a wider crime fighting agency under a broader framework. Green emphasised that it was an important time for the SFO and such an action would damage the agency’s ability to tackle high-level fraud as an independent agency. The plans are currently being mooted by Home Secretary Theresa May.

Labour’s shadow attorney-general, Emily Thornberry is of the view that if the SFO is having difficulty in financing the investigations in hand with the existing funds, then its capacity to take on new investigations will be seriously impaired. She urges ministers to look into the SFO’s funding arrangements. She insisted on the examination of the SFO’s funding by the government and the impact on business crime, white collar crime and fraud if the SFO remains a state of perpetual bankruptcy.

Source: http://www.euronews.com/business-newswires/2754418-uk-fraud-prosecutor-seeks-more-cash-for-big-cases/ and http://www.ft.com/intl/cms/s/0/d172db9a-5a05-11e4-be8600144feab7de.html?siteedition=intl#axzz3HL5KlIrv

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