Solicitor general gives no guarantees fraud squad won't be culled, as the government mulls the future of economic crime oversight in the UK

 
Hayley Kirton
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The solicitor general indicated he was a fan of the Roskill model (Source: Getty)

The solicitor general today came out in support for the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) but refused to go as far as guarantee it won't be rolled into another of the UK's crime agencies in the future.

The government is currently auditing the UK's approach to economic crime, leading some to believe the future of the SFO is hanging in the balance.

Facing a grilling on fraud in the House of Commons today, Robert Buckland praised the Roskill model, which is used by the fraud squad and sees investigators and prosecutors sit within the same agency, and agreed the office had had a number of recent successes.

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When asked by Nick Thomas-Symonds, Labour's shadow solicitor general, for a promise that the SFO would not be merged into either the Crown Prosecution Service or the National Crime Agency (NCA), Buckland dodged the question.

"The honourable gentleman knows that the government is under a duty to review at all times the mechanisms by which we tackle economic crime because it's not just a question of criminality, it's also a question of national security," Buckland said instead. "I think the government is right to examine the situation but, as I said and I will repeat again, I think the Roskill model works extremely well."

However, Buckland did say he had regular conversations with minister about the issues at hand.

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This is not the first time the future of the SFO has been called into question. Back in the days when she was home secretary, now Prime Minister Theresa May argued the fraud squad should be folded into the NCA.

The SFO, which has been headed up by David Green since 2012, has had a recent string of successes, including securing its third-ever deferred prosecution agreement from engineering firm Rolls-Royce for £497m back in January.

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But its track record has been marred by some high-profile flops, including a botched investigation into property tycoon Vincent Tchenguiz.

An SFO spokesperson said: "The structure of law enforcement is a matter for the government – we are cooperating fully with and contributing to this exercise."

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