Lean SFO breaks conviction record.

The Serious Fraud Office has achieved its highest ever conviction rate despite a sustained drop in police resources, according to its annual report last week.

Presented to parliament this afternoon, the 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.

Rosalind Wright, director of the SFO, told Accountancy Age: ‘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.’

But Wright complained of financial institutions’ continued reluctance 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.

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.

To compensate for the shortfall in resources, the SFO is ‘supplementing’ its efforts by employing its own investigators.

Analysis, page 10.

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