The UK’s Serious Fraud Office (SFO) has acknowledged that it needs to improve the way it handles evidence in order to pursue large-scale investigations and any subsequent legal actions satisfactorily.
That’s according to a statement from SFO Director Lisa Osofsky in the wake of her decision to abandon a number of long-running investigations earlier this year without bringing them to prosecution.
In a report published by the FT on Monday, Osofsky said, “I came here to take a proper ‘drains-up’ look, see what we had, see what changes needed to be made. I knew I wasn’t going to find only amazing things. I found some exciting cases – we do have great cases.”
However, she acknowledged that some historic investigations had lacked critical evidence and implied they had been allowed to run on for too long. “We’ve got to be able to focus enough so that our cases come into court within the kind of time to have the witnesses and defendants still living, and the evidence still alive.
“We’re spending taxpayers’ money,” she told the FT. “We need to make sure we’re thinking wisely about our investment and whether all the lines of inquiry […] are reasonable.”
But in the wake of abandoned investigations into Rolls Royce, GlaxoSmithKline, and others, she denied that smaller cases with more potential victims had replaced large-scale corruption investigations.
Since taking over at the SFO in August last year, Ms Osofsky has opened investigations into alleged fraud related to property developments in Liverpool and Manchester, and into the collapse of London Capital & Finance.
According to the FT, Osofsky has previously spoken in favour of adopting some US legal principles, such as extending the offence of failure to prevent illegal activity into such areas as fraud and money-laundering.
Her relationship with the SFO began when, after joining the fraud division of the US Department of Justice (DoJ), Osofsky was sent on secondment by Robert Mueller to the SFO to work on the investigation into the collapse of Bank of Credit and Commerce International.
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