If you or your company is under investigation by the Serious Fraud Office it is essential that you contact a specialist law firm with experience of dealing with large scale, complex fraud cases and with the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) in particular.
The SFO investigates cases involving serious or complex fraud, bribery and corruption. These cases often involve high financial loss, significant economic harm, a strong public interest and may often undermine UK PLC’s commercial or financial interests in general and the City of London in particular.
Serious Fraud Office
David Green, former Director of the SFO, referred to an emphasis on top drawer fraud cases which “undermine confidence in UK PLC and the City of London, cases which compromise the level playing field to which investors are entitled, serious bribery and corruption, national or international, other cases which may have a particularly strong public interest dimension or which represent a striking new species of frauds”.
Since 2017 the SFO has also had the power to offences of corporate failure to prevent the facilitation of overseas tax evasion (Criminal Finances Act 2017).
The SFO is organised into four divisions, two dealing with fraud and two dealing with bribery and corruption. David Green refers to a strategic approach to the problem of fraud with the SFO playing a full time part in a new co-operative landscape.
Olliers SFO Defence Specialists
Our fraud specialists have substantial experience of defending investigations and prosecutions instigated by the Serious Fraud Office.
Our team is headed by Matthew Claughton who over the years has been involved in a significant number of SFO and other complex fraud investigations. We advise clients required by the SFO to attend a compulsory interview under Section 2 of the Criminal Justice Act 1987. Click here to read more about Section 2 interviews.
Whilst an SFO investigation may be similar to an investigation made by any other prosecuting authority, the nature and profile of the offence is being considered will mean that alternatives to a straight forward prosecution are more likely to be considered. Not only do the SFO have a different approach to intelligence gathering during the “pre-investigation” stage with regard to Section 2 powers, they also have a different approach to investigation and prosecution. Whereas the normal practice involves a police investigation and a crown prosecution service decision to prosecute, the SFO Director, investigators and lawyers all work together from the outset with no separation of function.
We are known for our front footed, proactive approach to complex investigations. We look to establish an detailed understanding of the allegation our clients face and their alleged role in any criminality. We will seek detailed disclosure from the SFO investigators well before an interview under caution, meticulously shaping a defence strategy on behalf of our client.
Deferred Prosecution Agreements
The Director of the SFO may consider a deferred prosecution agreement, which is an agreement between the SFO and the organisation which could be prosecuted and which is supervised by a judge. It allows a corporate body to make reparation for criminal behaviour without the damage of a conviction. It must be in the interests of justice and the terms must be “fair, reasonable and proportionate”. These agreements are intended to be transparent.
Recent SFO Cases
Olliers’ recent SFO experience includes the following:
- 2016 – Acting for a company secretary facing allegations of conspiracy to commit fraud by false representation and conspiracy to make corrupt payments. Alleged fraud of approx. £180 million on a Belgium bank by way of falsification of receivable agreements sold on. Defendant acquitted following six month trial.
- 2013 – SFO investigation into alleged £1.6m plot to defraud the Skills Funding Agency via football coaching apprenticeships.
- 2011 – SFO v L – Representation of director facing SFO investigation into collapse of Lexi Holdings, with alleged debts of £75m.
- 2009 – SFO V B – Defence of company director charged in relation to multimillion pound factoring fraud.