IEA - New SFO boss has big job ahead

From: Think Tanks
Published: Thu Jul 06 2023

Dr James Forder, commented on Nick Ephgrave's appointment as the new director of the Serious Fraud Office Academic and Research Director at the free market Institute of Economic Affairs and author of Fraud Focus: Is the Serious Fraud Office fit for purpose?

“The Serious Fraud Office has been embroiled in spectacular prosecutorial failures and too many individuals within it have acted inappropriately or unprofessionally. Ephgrave has a big job ahead to change the culture, reform the internal processes and ensure the SFO is fit to deliver its vital mandate.

“Serious fraud investigation and prosecution is vital to uphold the rule of law and ensure that the UK remains an attractive destination to invest and do business. The SFO has struggled with this vital task for far too long.”

Notes to Editors

  • In March 2023, the IEA published Fraud Focus: Is the Serious Fraud Office fit for purpose? A paper by Dr Forder, which highlighted the SFO's record of failure.
  • On 10th March 2023, the SFO's case against three former G4S employees collapsed. Despite investigating the case for 10 years, the SFO failed to offer any evidence against the accused in court.
  • In 2022, the High Court found that the SFO had induced ENRC's own solicitor to breach his contractual duties to the mining company in what was described as “extraordinary” and “almost unimaginable” misconduct. SFO officers were found to have lied under oath and been motivated by “bad faith opportunism”. It now faces potentially £70m in damages.
  • The report also scrutinises the SFO's use of Deferred Prosecution Agreements (DPAs), which allow companies to avoid trial if they agree to cooperate with the government according to certain terms. This often effectively means that companies can avoid prosecution so long as they can pay tens of million in fines and legal fees.
  • Since their introduction in 2013, there have not been any successful prosecutions of individuals relating to the nine cases in which corporate entities have been given DPAs. This suggests that they hinder the SFO's ability to bring evidence against individuals involved in corporate fraud, raising further questions about their use.

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The mission of the Institute of Economic Affairs is to improve understanding of the fundamental institutions of a free society by analysing and expounding the role of markets in solving economic and social problems. The IEA is a registered educational charity and independent of all political parties.

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