Monday 10 May 2021 8:06 am

Former Serco boss calls for abolition of Serious Fraud Office

A former Serco executive who was cleared of defrauding taxpayers by hiding millions of pounds in profits has called for the abolition of the white collar crime agency that pursued him.

Simon Marshall, who was acquitted last month, said the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) did not have “anything to do with justice” and should be disbanded.

Marshall was subjected to an eight-year probe by the SFO over allegations Serco hid £12m of profits made from a prison tag contract with the Ministry of Justice between 2011 and 2013.

He was acquitted alongside another former executive Nicholas Woods after their trial collapsed due to blunders in evidence disclosure.

In an interview with the Sunday Telegraph Marshall said a so-called statement of facts that implicated him in the fraud was incorrect. The document was part of a deal Serco struck with the SFO to avoid prosecution in 2019.

 “The SFO worked backwards in trying to retrofit a case against me,” he said.

Marshall added that his decision to cooperate with the SFO during a four-day grilling in 2016 was “maybe ill-advised”.

He also revealed that the MoJ tried to hire him to manage taxpayer contracts after he left Serco in 2013.

“I want to challenge [SFO boss Lisa Osofsky] about the motivation of the Serious Fraud Office, because it doesn’t feel to me it’s got anything to do with justice,” he said.

“The SFO is an organisation under immense pressure. Theresa May tried to disband them and have them folded into the National Crime Agency. I think that’s the right way to go. Or as a minimum, [Osofsky] needs to be open to reform.”

Marshall and Woods were acquitted at Southwark Crown Court last month after the SFO admitted it had “uncovered errors made in the non-disclosure of certain materials”.

The blunder piles more pressure on the white collar crime agency, which has faced repeated calls to be disbanded or reformed.

Last year three former Barclays bankers were cleared on charges they helped to funnel £322m in secret fees to Qatar in return for rescue financing during the credit crunch.

An SFO spokesperson said: “The statement of facts was agreed by Serco and approved by Mr Justice William Davis at the Royal Courts of Justice.

“We are disappointed that disclosure errors led to the ending of this case. We will learn the lessons from this as we continue to reform and improve.”