Serious Fraud Office zeros in on large-scale fraud as prosecutions for other offences fall
There are a growing number of frauds, outside of the SFO’s remit, where authorities are not taking action quickly enough, says Pinsent Masons law firm
As the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) increasingly focuses on large-scale frauds, the overall number of fraud prosecutions in the UK is falling, new figures show.
According to figures from the SFO, an authority that investigates and prosecutes serious and complex fraud, bribery and corruption, its orders to freeze and seize assets have doubled in a year.
Meanwhile, figures obtained by law firm Pinsent Masons, via a Freedom of Information request to the Ministry of Justice, show that the overall number of fraud prosecutions fell by 12 per cent last year as the number of fraud offences rose by 4 per cent.
Pinsent Masons says that as the SFO focuses its efforts on larger-scale frauds, there are a growing number of frauds, outside the SFO’s remit, where the authorities are not taking action quickly enough to freeze funds, compensate victims or prosecute criminals.
“When combatting fraud, it is vital that authorities react quickly to pursue the money at the centre of the case – freezing and seizing assets hits criminals and can help reimburse victims,” said Alan Sheeley, a partner at the firm.
“As the number of reported fraud offences is rising, ensuring law enforcement bodies receive adequate funding and resources to carry out investigations is essential.”
A SFO spokesperson said: “The SFO is committed to ensuring that assets are restrained and that confiscation as well as compensation orders are made and satisfied. The number of such orders and the amounts recovered will fluctuate year on year, given the small number and high complexity of investigations and prosecutions we undertake.”
The number of times the SFO has used funds taken from criminals to compensate victims has also risen, from two in 2015/2016 to 10 in 2016/2017.
Where a defendant has been convicted in these cases, the SFO can make an application to the court for compensation for victims in a case.