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SFO tip offs rise 13% to over 2,800 in 2015

But just 16 new investigations opened last year as lack of funding continues to cause concern

There was a 13% increase in whistleblowing reports made to the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) – bringing the total figure to 2,832 – in 2014/15* however, only 16 new investigations were opened last year, according to Pinsent Masons, the international law firm. There were 2,508 reports in 2013/14.

Pinsent Masons explains that the reports were made through SFO Confidential - a dedicated SFO email address designed to enable individuals to report suspected cases of serious fraud or corruption. SFO Confidential has been in operation since 2011.

Pinsent Masons warns that, despite the increasing use of SFO Confidential, an ongoing lack of funding could mean some cases of serious fraud or corruption are not being fully investigated.  Last month the SFO had to request £21 million in additional “blockbuster funding”, the fourth request of its kind it has needed to make in as many years.

Barry Vitou, Partner and Head of Global Corporate Crime at Pinsent Masons, comments: “It’s disconcerting that such a tiny fraction of tip offs are developing into full investigations.”

“The Government needs to ensure that the SFO is well-resourced enough to follow up all credible leads received.”

Number of reports to SFO Confidential jumps 13% in a year


Pinsent Masons says that budgetary constraints mean the SFO could be forced to concentrate existing funds on a small number of large cases – leaving limited scope for new investigations to be opened and, where necessary, pursued.     

The focus of recent major investigations undertaken by the SFO include:

  • Manipulation of EURIBOR
  • Forex-rigging
  • International bribery allegations linked to GlaxoSmithKline

Barry Vitou, comments: “Investigations carried out by the SFO are both time-consuming and expensive. Opening a new case becomes an uninviting prospect when resources are already over-stretched.”

“The idea that available budget does not impact outcomes does not hold up to much scrutiny.”

“With a whistleblower reporting system in place but not enough money, the SFO will be forced to continue to prioritise only the cases it considers most important – leaving others to fall by the wayside.”

“This means that there is a risk that whistleblowers – a major source of information for the SFO – are being failed and that large cases of serious fraud or corruption are slipping through the net.”

“The concern is that perpetrators are all too aware of this.”

“Action needs to be taken to ensure that the SFO is adequately supported and that any uncertainty surrounding its future is removed- so that the organisation can effectively keep criminal activity within our corporate community at bay.”

*Year ending 30 June 2015

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