The Serious Fraud Office (SFO) was created in 1988, and describes itself as:
“a specialist prosecuting authority tackling the top level of serious or complex fraud, bribery and corruption”
As long ago as 2011, when she was Home Secretary, Theresa May made clear her desire to dismantle the SFO, in spite of resistance from cabinet colleagues. Back then, her argument was that police and special investigators were better suited than lawyers to investigate the types of crimes being handled by the SFO.
With this policy, the government announced its intention to follow through on the Prime Minister’s long-held belief that the SFO is an agency that should not exist in its own right.
However, the government has not proceeded with the plan as it intended. In October 2017, a Home Office minister avoided giving an affirmative answer to a straightforward question about whether the planned merger of the SFO with the National Crime Agency (NCA) was going ahead.
Then, in December 2017, the government announced a plan to establish a new National Economic Crime Centre within the NCA to target crimes such as fraud, bribery, corruption and money laundering. Buried in the announcement was a reversal of the policy of “incorporating” the SFO into the NCA:
“The SFO will continue to act as an independent organisation…”
Its relationship with the new National Economic Crime Centre does have implications for the way the SFO operates, but the government has shelved the idea of incorporating the SFO into the NCA, so we’re marking this one as ‘broken’.
- Serious Fraud Office under threat from Tory plans – BBC
- UK sought to dampen praise for SFO in OECD bribery review – mLex
- Home Secretary announces new national economic crime centre to tackle high level fraud and money laundering – Gov.uk
- UK seeks new anti-fraud head after crime agencies overhaul – Reuters
- New head of the Serious Fraud Office announced – Gov.uk