| LONDON, June 14
LONDON, June 14 Britain's top fraud busting
agency is to focus on big cases and improving intelligence and
quality control, as its new boss shakes up a body lambasted in
the courts for its handling of a case against a pair of
high-profile property barons.
In his first speech since becoming head of the Serious Fraud
Office (SFO), David Green said on Thursday there had been a mix
of unfair and fair criticism but that fundamental change was on
"I am very proud to lead the SFO. I aim to recharge the
SFO's corporate self-respect and to bring it to the top of its
game as a major crime fighting agency," he told a PwC event on
Judge John Thomas has slated the SFO for "sheer
incompetence" in its investigation into the Tchenguiz brothers,
two high-profile property investors, and called for better
funding of the agency.
The UK prosecution inspectorate is already examining the
agency, a step Green welcomed and dismissed as "piffle" talk it
was linked to the handling of the Tchenguiz case or a review of
the SFO as a standalone body.
"Is the SFO here to stay? Yes, it is here to stay. Does it
have to prove itself? Yes it does. Remember what Keynes said, in
the long run we are all dead," he later told Reuters.
In a blunt and spirited speech, Green mapped out sweeping
changes to how the SFO will try to handle cases better.
"The SFO must focus on top drawer fraud. The SFO must resist
dilution of its brand," Green said.
Scarce resources meant there was a need to focus on big
cases that have "strategic value and maximum positive impact".
Routine mortgage and share selling fraud, or "bent
solicitors" would be pursued elsewhere, leaving the SFO to focus
on the big, difficult cases others cannot pursue.
"Ours is the hard slog," Green said.
The SFO will be revamped into four divisions with "layers of
quality control" at each stage of a probe, from inception to
charges, and between charges and trial.
Intelligence capability - seen as sorely lacking in the
Tchenguiz case that is still ongoing - will also be beefed up.
The SFO was forced to admit to a litany of errors in the
A new chief prosecutor will be appointed and there will be a
recruitment drive among solicitors and barristers in the private
sector to bring in more experience.
The SFO's proceeds of crime operations will become a
division in its own right to increase confiscation of criminally
obtained assets and compensation of victims.
Green is keen to use the "new imaginative tool" the SFO is
set to get, known as Deferred Prosecution Agreements (DPAs).
This threatens prosecution if a company refuses to make
changes and can avoid a hefty fine that could close down a
company and put many out of work.
Preet Bharara, an attorney from the Dept. of Justice in New
York, said DPA was an important option when faced with a "binary
choice" of potentially destroying a company or letting it go
"You hold them on a short lease. It's a robust alternative
to the binary choice you have," Bharara told the conference.
But the SFO will take care in using DPA, or other tools like
immunity from prosecution and leniency for companies that blow
the whistle themselves on fraud.
"Corporates cannot be seen to be allowed some special kid
glove treatment. In any case where there is a reasonable
prospect of conviction, and it's in the public interest to
prosecute, the SFO will prosecute, whether individuals or
corporates," Green said.
(Reporting by Huw Jones; Editing by Mark Potter)