Serious Fraud Office sees costs rise and conviction rates drop

THE SERIOUS Fraud Office (SFO) yesterday admitted that its costs have risen even as the number of successful prosecutions continues to fall.

The troubled watchdog’s annual report shows it brought 12 cases involving 20 defendants to trial during 2012-13, with a conviction rate of 70 per cent.

This is down on the 19 cases the SFO brought to trial the previous year, when it also achieved a higher conviction rate. The total sums recovered from people involved in fraudulent activity also fell from £50.2m to just £11.4m.

The report was published the day after MPs attacked ex-SFO director Richard Alderman for agreeing excessive pay deals with top executives. His replacement as director, David Green, yesterday said “radical changes” have been made since he took over in April.

Paul Lomas, a partner with Freshfields, last night warned that poor conviction rates could tempt the SFO to rely on its forthcoming ability to impose substantial fines on firms rather than prosecute fraud cases in court.