Presented to parliament this afternoon, the annual report reveals that the SFO’s investigations resulted in 23 convictions out of 24 trials, involving 57 defendants. The result is a 93% conviction rate for the year to date, up 25% on last year.
SFO fraud cases undertaken in 2000 range from stock market rigging, foreign exchange investments, investments in ostrich breeding to theft of liquidated assets and luxury car hire fraud, among others.
Rosalind Wright, director of the SFO, told AccountancyAge.com: ‘We’ve had more trials than ever before. I hope it’s some indication that we’re trying to get the cases through quicker this year.’
The accelerated speed of investigations at the SFO is also attributable to the introduction of the European Human Rights Act into UK law. ‘Firstly we ought to do it. It’s the right thing to do … to get these cases before the court as quickly as we can. And secondly it is a human rights act initiative that’ll drive us a bit on this,’ said Wright.
The director complained of financial institutions’ continued reluctantance to report fraud, despite a survey from the Association of British Insurers showing that the cost of crime has reached £35bn, of which at least a third is fraud. The majority of case referrals, about 60%, are from the police. Wright said she hoped that the more successful the SFO was, the more confidence it would instil in financial institutions to report fraud.
Last year the SFO dealt with eight trials involving 12 defendants. This year’s conviction rate is also significantly higher than the average for the last five years which was 14 trials and 32 defendants.
The SFO plans to increase its workload to take on up to 110 cases by 2004, despite the weakening resources from police. It also has to up its staff numbers.
‘We took on 20% extra staff on last year. We’ll probably take on another 20% extra over the next three years. That’s a rough estimate,’ she said.
To compensate for the shortfall in resources, the SFO is ‘supplementing this by employing our own investigators; retired police officers who know the procedures inside out’.
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