Serious Fraud Office in fierce invoice battle

The SFO had asked Vogon to recover data from two Microsoft servers to help in an investigation of suspected fraud. The SFO has a forensic computer unit with the skills to undertake the job, but it was fully committed on other cases.

The office thought the work would cost around £25,000, based on experiences of similar kinds of forensic recovery. Instead it received an invoice for £314,375 (ex VAT), which it refused to pay.

Vogon began proceedings, but the court found against Vogon, and in a written judgement, Judge Richard Seymour QC noted that ‘the rendering of that invoice was, in my judgement, simply an opportunistic attempt to exploit the perceived commercial na’vete of the SFO’. He also refused Vogon leave to appeal.

But Gordon Stevenson, managing director of Vogon International, said: ‘We’ll be taking this further and appealing. We believe the court exceeded its remit. We’ve worked for the SFO for many years and have worked with most other government agencies with no problems.’

A spokesman for the SFO said: ‘We were confident from the outset that our interpretation of the contract was correct. The claim (by Vogon) was too much – by a long way. It’s disappointing that the matter went to court but in the end it was a satisfactory outcome for the SFO.’

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