The future of the Serious Fraud Office has been secured under plans aimed at tackling economic crime, however it will have to answer to a newly created overarching body.
In an announcement, today the government said a new National Economic Crime Centre (NECC) will be set up to ’task and coordinate the response to economic crime’.
The agency, which will sit within the National Crime Agency, will have the power to directly ask the SFO to investigate suspects.
Andrew Smith commented:
“On paper this is an ambitious strategy, and part of a broader drive towards increasing transparency and accountability in financial services in particular. But the recent political past is littered with such strategies. Whether the NECC can achieve its lofty ambitions is ultimately a question of funding and expertise.
“It is reassuring that the Government appears to have abandoned its earlier plans to abolish the SFO. It is only right that the SFO, which has made significant progress under its outgoing director David Green QC, should continue to be tasked with investigating the worst cases of fraud, money laundering and corruption.”
In GIR: Andrew said that until the details of the plan are published, it is “difficult to say whether in practice this will lead to reduced independence and authority for the SFO, but it does seem to suggest a slight drift in power from the SFO to the NCA”.
Smith said the announcement could be cause for concern at the SFO. He said the agency “has made strides in the right direction under [SFO director] David Green, and it would seem counterintuitive to fail to recognise those strides” by reducing the agency’s independence.