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Serious Fraud Office turns 30: three decades combating serious and complex economic crime

6 April, 2018 | News Releases

This month, the SFO turns 30, marking three decades since the agency first opened its doors on April 6th 1988.

Throughout its 7 directors, three decades and hundreds of cases, the SFO has remained at the forefront of the UK’s fight against serious economic crime.

Starting with a staff of just 100, the SFO has grown to house more than 500 lawyers, investigators, forensic accountants, digital specialists and others, investigating the UK’s largest corporate scandals.

The SFO’s mission is the reduction of harm caused by economic crime, the protection of the UK’s reputation as a safe place to do business, and the delivery of justice in serious fraud, bribery and corruption cases.

Established in response to the 1986 Roskill Fraud Trials Committee report which called for a ‘unified organisation’ to detect, investigate and prosecute serious fraud, the SFO was created to help restore confidence in a legal system ‘the public no longer [believed] capable of bringing the perpetrators of serious fraud…to book’.

Today, the SFO continues that work, helping to safeguard the UK’s business reputation and combat the growing global threat of economic crime.

SFO Director, David Green QC said:

“The harm caused by corruption, particularly in the developing world, is now widely understood. The importance of effective anti-corruption policies and enforcement is widely accepted. At the corporate level, compliance and anti-bribery are now firmly established on the agenda.

“Reflecting and contributing to these trends, the work of the SFO in the topmost tier of serious and complex fraud and bribery has grown in importance and relevance over the past 30 years.

“That work is undertaken by highly skilled, determined and dedicated staff. It has been my privilege to lead the SFO for the past 6 years and to mark its 30th anniversary as a vibrant and successful organisation.”

SFO in numbers

  • The SFO has more than 500 staff
  • Has a total budget of £53m in 2016/17
  • Returned a record £517m to the Treasury in fines and confiscations in 2016/17
  • 60-70 active investigations at any one time
  • Has had 7 Directors:
    • 1988-1990 John Wood
    • 1990-1992 Barbara Mills, first female director and later the first female Director of Public Prosecutions
    • 1992-1997 George Staple
    • 1997-2002 Rosalind Wright
    • 2002-2008 Robert Wardle
    • 2008-2012 Richard Alderman
    • 2012-2018 David Green

Notes to Editors

  1. On 6th April 1988, the SFO opened officially at Keysign House and created under the Criminal Justice Act 1987 after the Roskill report was published. More information on the history and powers of the Serious Fraud Office can be found on our website here.