Fraud: stop the rot

Richard Alderman, new SFO head

There’s a popular misconception that fraud is a victimless crime. At the
Serious Fraud Office the victims of fraud are at the heart of what we do.

In the public consciousness we are primarily associated with prosecuting
high-level multi-million pound cases, often involving the capital markets. True,
these are an important part of our role.

But crimes such as boiler-room frauds and advance fee frauds that directly
impact ordinary people are equally prominent on our radar.

I see the impact of these frauds every working day through the hardship and
anguish that fraud causes. In one SFO case an elderly couple committed suicide
after they lost their pensions as a result of an alleged fraud. Many people like
them spend years building financial security only to have a fraudster take it
away. This incenses me on both a personal and professional level, and
strengthens my determination to ensure these victims get the justice and
compensation they deserve.

We are handling one case at the moment where more than 1,000 people have been
defrauded of a huge amount of money. This is the kind of case where the SFO’s
skills in detection, prosecution and compensation really come to the fore and
where we can help to heal the damage to people’s lives.
With this in mind, we are committed to achieving three things. The first is to
get fraudsters into court as quickly as possible. The second is to secure
adequate compensation for the victims. And the third is to protect people more
effectively from fraud before it happens.

The first two are mainly about simplifying legal processes and ensuring the
right provisions are in place. But the third requires us to do more. The SFO
needs to go beyond a traditional reactive approach and reach out into society to
share our knowledge and experience.

What does this involve? It means getting out into businesses and schools to
educate people about fraud risks and warning-signs.

It means collaborating with law enforcement authorities via the National
Fraud Strategic Authority.

And it also means building closer relationships with intermediaries such as
the accountancy
institutes to align our approaches, mount joint initiatives and communicate more

With fraud, like disease, prevention is better than cure.

The SFO will always continue to prosecute financial crime. But the best way
to all to work together to prevent it happening in the first place.

Richard Alderman is director of the Serious Fraud

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