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FOI 2019-113 – Length of SFO Investigations

Date Answered: 27 September 2019

This request asked:
1. What is the average length of the SFO’s investigations over the period 2009-2019?
2. What was the longest investigation carried out by the SFO, how long did it take and why did it take so long?

Our Response:
1. During the period 2009 – 2019 the average length of an SFO investigation was 4 years and 7 months. Please note, it has been interpreted that the term ‘investigations’ in this instance means the whole of the case life as opposed to the period between case acceptance and the date of the first charge.
2. Some SFO investigations can remain open for many years for various reasons including where suspects have fled the jurisdiction and domestic/international arrest warrants are outstanding but not executed.

The SFO understands the Polly Peck investigation to be its longest running investigation. The investigation was opened in 1990 and resulted in the conviction and sentence of Asil Nadir in 2012. Mr Nadir fled the UK in 1993 ahead of his trial. Extradition was not possible so a considerable period of time had elapsed prior to his return to the UK.

You can find more information about this case at