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SFO to proactively hunt for fraud cases

The Serious Fraud Office is to begin proactively looking for cases of misconduct rather than waiting for them to be handed over by the police or regulators.

Speaking at a Sweet & Maxwell conference last week, SFO director Richard Alderman said it is moving towards becoming an intelligence-led organisation.

He said it will assess where the fraud risks are during the economic downturn and work with other agencies to disrupt fraud as it happens.

He said the SFO is putting increased emphasis on tackling possible fraud from hedge funds and providing more incentives for the City to cooperate, including being more lenient towards companies that do come forward.

Alderman also said it is also focusing on faster decision making, including taking on cases with greater speed, bringing them to court faster and discontinuing those that do not appear to offer a realistic chance of a successful outcome.

There is now an 80 per cent conviction rate for cases brought to the Crown Court by the SFO.

Alderman said that he is considering whether more powers should be given to the SFO for tools such as deferred prosecutions, where instead of an immediate trial the SFO could collect fines and appoint external monitors to impose internal reforms.

He said: “The SFO has a number of powers that for whatever reason were never properly utilised to tackle fraud in the past. We intend to take full advantage of all the powers that are available to us and that have been neglected by the SFO over the past years, but we also need to consider what further powers were need to make the SFO a more efficient organisation.”

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