SFO achievements, ‘Brexit’ and Theresa May’s appointment to Prime Minister: Is the SFO here to stay?

The Serious Fraud Office (SFO) annual report published last week demonstrates a year-on-year increase on the amount of money it recovered from fraudulent activities. During the period of 2014-15 the SFO recovered £13,786,522, which increased to £19,612,132 during the period of 2015-16, representing an increase of 42%.

Since David Green’s appointment as Director in 2012, the money recovered by the SFO annually has steadily increased from £10,833,882 in the 2012-13 period, to the aforementioned figure.

Mr Green has implemented operational and structural changes throughout the SFO, with the creation of the Deferred Prosecution Agreement being a notable addition. As a result of such changes, there has been an accumulation of high-profile cases. Mr Green has attributed much of the SFO's recent success to a “massive” expansion of its intelligence gathering operation.

As Home Secretary, Theresa May led a prolonged campaign allow the NCA the power to govern the SFO, and although it could be argued that Theresa May is now in a more prominent position to push through such changes, it seems more unlikely than ever that such changes will occur.

Though the SFO has been previously chastised for its failures, such as Tchenguiz, the now Prime Minister has never attained the necessary support to action any change. The SFO has made improvements under Mr Green’s leadership, and following the extension of his tenure until 2018, any proposed changes may damage the SFO’s trend of improvement and inhibit Mr Green’s ability to action further changes during his final two years as Director.

Mr Green has warned that the reason the SFO has the ability to take on cases involving “immensely powerful and influential” companies is due to its independence and ability to prioritise cases of fraud. Evidently, any form of merge with the NCA will eradicate the SFO’s most important attributes.

Crucially, the financial and political turmoil caused by the United Kingdom’s decision to leave the European Union will dominate the priorities of Government in the short-term. The Prime Minister, in addition to the other key members of Government, is currently shackled to lobbying the leaders of major economic powers to secure the United Kingdom’s future and ensure stability.

It would undoubtedly be politically damaging to spend crucial time dismantling an experienced and effective tool of justice, simply to transfer power to an inexperienced and non-specific body under the control of the Home Secretary.

The recent successes and improvements of the SFO, coupled with political and economic uncertainty, are likely to place the tug-of-war initiated by Theresa May between the SFO and NCA on a hiatus.

For the immediate future, it is likely that the SFO is here to stay.

If you would like more information, please contact Kyle Phillips.