The Conservatives manifesto plan to incorporate the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) into the National Crime Agency has been criticised by lawyers.
Yesterday in the Tory manifesto, the Party pledged to do more to stop financial crime. As part of this, the Tories said it will reshape the organisations who deal with this.
‘We will strengthen Britain’s response to white collar crime by incorporating the SFO into the National Crime Agency (NCA), improving intelligence sharing and bolstering the investigation of serious fraud, money laundering and financial crime,’ the manifesto said.
Founded in 1988 the SFO is charged with tackling the ‘top level’ of fraud and corruption and a ‘small number of large economic crime cases’. The organisation has been involved in tackling certain pension schemes over the years; however often bringing cases to prosecution is a lengthy process for the body.
Ben Rose, a partner at law firm Hickman & Rose, said moving the SFO under the NCA umbrella is a big risk.
‘It is difficult to see the rationale for moving the SFO under the umbrella of the NCA when the next government will have a very long list of institutions to reorganise,’ Rose said.
‘Given its specialist role there are scant savings to be made, and much to lose. It would be preferable to use the time, energy and money in ensuring the SFO can do the job for which it was created.’
Omar Qureshi, head of corporate crime at law firm CMS, questioned the reasoning behind the move, calling it a ‘backward step in the fight against complex economic crime’.
‘Law enforcement needs more specialist resources and support to fight white collar crime, not less,’ he said.
‘In recent years the SFO has demonstrated its potential to achieve successful outcomes cost effectively. It is not at all clear why the government would want to curtail law enforcement’s ability to tackle economic crime in this way. The policy sends out a negative message on the government’s commitment to tackling fraud and corruption.’