The director of the Serious Fraud Office has denied that the agency will be diminished under the government’s new measures for tackling economic crime, insisting that its independence is not under threat.
David Green told the House of Commons Justice Committee that the plans to create a new National Economic Crime Centre (NECC) will not impinge on the SFO’s work.
The NECC, which will sit within the National Crime Agency (NCA), will have the power to ‘directly ask the SFO to investigate suspects’, the government said. However, Green said the NCA ‘already has the power’ to ask the SFO to take on cases [under the Crime and Courts Act 2013].
Green said: ‘To my knowledge that power has only been used once. The former NCA director Keith Bristow said he would regard it as a failure if he had to use that power. I agree with that sentiment.’
He added that the power cannot be exercised without the consent of the attorney general and home secretary. ’I have no objection to the plans and don’t see it changing much’.
Green, who is stepping down from his role as director in April, had been asked by committee chair Bob Neill MP ‘what kind of job the new director will be taking on’.
In a statement today commenting on the government’s plans, attorney general Jeremy Wright, said: ‘The SFO will continue to play its part as an independent organisation, superintended by me in my role as attorney general, and it will support the multi-agency response led by the NCA. The SFO will work as part of a collective effort with its partners in the NECC. The SFO will continue to investigate and prosecute the most serious and complex of these.’
An advertisement for the role of director, which pays up to £170,000, has been posted on the Civil Service Jobs website.
Wright added: ‘The role will be pivotal in driving through the package of reforms, working collaboratively to investigate and prosecute serious and complex cases effectively. It will be vital that we have an exceptional person to continue the significant progress the SFO has made in recent years in their response to economic crime.’