SFO investigating 'tiny fraction' of tip offs, says City firm

Topics: City,Money laundering and financial crime

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The Serious Fraud Office (SFO) is investigating only a small percentage of the tip offs it receives as it struggles with an on-going lack of funding, a law firm has claimed.

According to figures obtained by City firm Pinsent Masons in response to a Freedom of Information Act request, just 16 investigations were opened by the SFO in the year to June 2015. The number of whistleblowing reports to the SFO rose by 13% to more 2,800 in the same year.


The reports were made though SFO Confidential, a dedicated email address for those wanting to report suspicions of serious fraud or corruption. 

The firm says that a lack of funding could mean some cases of serious fraud or corruption are not being fully investigated. It cited the fact that the SFO has made four requests for extra funding in as many years as evidence its lack of resources.

Last month the SFO asked for £21.1m of extra funding, amounting to 60% of its budget, to pay for extra investigations.

Barry Vitou, a partner and head of global corporate crime at Pinsent Masons, said it was ‘disconcerting’ that such a tiny fraction of tip offs are developing into full investigations.

He said: ‘Investigations carried out by the SFO are both time-consuming and expensive. Opening a new case becomes an uninviting prospect when resources are already over-stretched. The idea that available budget does not impact outcomes does not hold up to much scrutiny.

‘With a whistle-blower reporting system in place but not enough money, the SFO will be forced to continue to prioritise only the cases it considers most important – leaving others to fall by the wayside.’ 

But the SFO pointed that not all fraud falls within its ‘very specific remit’ .

A spokesperson said: ‘If the information provided is not for us, we pass it on to other relevant law enforcement agencies and regulators. To suggest the SFO has not been able to investigate is deliberately to misinterpret this data.

'It is also wrong to suggest that the SFO’s budget impacts its ability to pursue cases – the SFO will never refuse to take on an investigation on grounds of cost, as demonstrated by its current caseload.’


Readers' comments (5)

  • the SFO will never refuse to take on an investigation on grounds of cost, as demonstrated by its current caseload.’.... but cost may influence how the investigation proceeds?

    Is there not a real danger here of miscarriage of justice?

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  • Just a bit!!!!

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  • If the SFO have requested funding from the government 5 times in the last year, does this beg the following question about government motives?

    "The SFO only investigate High level fraudulent crimes, If friends of and politicians can get away with medium level but equally disastrous to society crimes, then does it not fair well for the government to keep this funding low to avoid investigation of these lesser cases?

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  • Exactly, Anon 3.48, this is carte blanche for MPs and Lords to get back to their old ways so far as expenses are concerned. 'Fiddle while Britain burns!'

    This country is broke and those elected to fix it are just making matters worse. This is how the Roman empire destroyed itself, the French monarchy, the Romanoffs and many more besides. The worst of it is that we, we the people, put them there, well some of us put some of them there. (Reminder to myself: don't fall into the mistake of thinking we live in a democracy, nor that we are free, nor even free from corruption!)

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  • Exactly, David, and a majority of even the educated and well informed citizenry is too apathetic to organise serious protest.

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