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Stiffer sentences and an increase in criminal assets recovered in SFO cases

4 April, 2012 | News Releases

The Serious Fraud Office reports another successful year with increased prison sentences for white collar criminals and more than £50 million pounds in assets recovered from the proceeds of crime.

In its annual review of the year 2011-12 published today the SFO says that its actions have secured prison sentences averaging 55 months for each convicted fraudster, up from an average of only 30 months in 2010-11. Over £50 million of assets were recovered from the proceeds of crime, up from £42.5 million the previous year.

The average time it takes to charge is now 19 months, down from over four years in 2007-08, before the current Director, Richard Alderman, was appointed. Commenting on his last annual report before stepping down later this month, (See note 1), Mr Alderman said: “I’m proud to be leaving behind an organisation that is far stronger, indeed transformed beyond recognition, from the one I took over in 2008. The advances would have been impossible without the support and commitment of my Chief Executive, Phillippa Williamson and our Chief Capability Officer, Chris Bailes.”

With the overall budget reducing for the fifth successive year to £36.8 million, successes have been achieved as the SFO continued its drive to provide better value for money. The average cost of cases fell from £910,000 in 2010-11, to an estimated £669,000 in the past financial year.  The SFO move to new premises later this year will save a further £4.3 million of public money by 2015-16. (See note 2).

In doing more for less it has been vital to harness advanced technology particularly in helping the SFO deal with massive increases in data handling. In 2011 the SFO’s Digital Forensic Unit processed around 13 terabytes of data – the equivalent of 650,000 trees’ worth of paper or more than 5.5 billion single-spaced typed pages; which if stacked up would tower over 858,000 miles high.

SFO Chief Executive, Phillippa Williamson, acknowledges that part of the SFO success is based on increasing its data processing capability by more than 1800% in the past three years. But it is also about looking beyond traditional adversarial approaches.

She said, “The £29.5 million payment that BAE Systems made to Tanzania under its settlement with us is a prime example, as is the Mabey & Johnson case, where we helped new management draw a line under the malpractice they found. In this case we also forced share holders to pay back dividends derived from contracts won through unlawful conduct. In future shareholders and investors in other companies should satisfy themselves about the business practices of the companies they invest in or face the prospect of the SFO taking civil action against them to recover money. “

Notes for editors:

1)       David Green CB QC has been appointed as Director of the SFO effective from 23 April 2012.

2)       The SFO is to relocate to premises in Cockspur Street, near Trafalgar Square, by the end of 2012.