The government has been urged to clarify the future of the Serious Fraud Office (SFO), amid fresh concerns that the specialist body is to be merged into a new crime-fighting agency.
Answering questions in parliament, solicitor general Robert Buckland (pictured) stopped short of giving a definite answer on the office’s future status – saying only that the situation was ‘under review’.
The SFO is one of several agencies under the spotlight as part of a Cabinet Office review of agencies set up to combat economic crime. The National Crime Agency (NCA) and Financial Conduct Authority are among others being assessed.
The Cabinet Office declined to comment on the review, referring the Gazette to comments made by Home Secretary Amber Rudd in parliament in December.
Rudd said the government will look at the UK’s response to economic crime ‘more broadly’, including at the effectiveness of ’organisational framework and the capabilities, resources and powers available to the organisations that tackle economic crime’.
Pressed by Conservative MP Bob Neill and Labour's shadow solicitor-general Nick Thomas-Symonds, Buckland said he agreed that the SFO was doing a good job but did not give reassurance about its future.
Thomas-Symonds called on Buckland to confirm that the SFO will not be merged with the NCA, a plan Theresa May is thought to have considered when she was home secretary.
Buckland said he and the government had a ‘duty at all times’ to review organisations. He added that he believed the SFO's 'Roskill model', where prosecutors and investigators work together, ‘works very well’.
Thomas-Symonds said: ‘This government needs to recognise the value of the SFO and its importance to our international reputation for tackling cases of bribery and corruption.
‘It would be a grave mistake to dispose of the SFO and its unique structure. Ministers must provide clarity on its future immediately.’
An SFO spokesperson told the Gazette: ‘The structure of law enforcement is a matter for government - we are cooperating fully with and contributing to this exercise.’