LONDON Feb 6 Richard Alderman, the former head
of Britain's leading fraud prosecution authority, oversaw a
chaotic agency that was unable to keep records and documents in
order, a London court heard on Thursday.
Alderman gave evidence at Southwark Court in a hearing to
consider whether there had been an abuse of process by the
Serious Fraud Office (SFO) when it issued fraud charges against
the founder of Weavering Capital, a $600 million hedge fund that
collapsed in the wake of the credit crisis in 2009.
The SFO could be forced to drop the high-profile case, which
is scheduled to go to trial in October, if Judge Andrew Smith
decides that Alderman acted unlawfully when he delegated the
power to launch the investigation to Phillippa Williamson, his
former chief operating officer, in 2008.
The hearing was initiated by Weavering's Swedish founder
Magnus Peterson, who has been charged with 16 fraud-related
offences between 2003 and 2009, ranging from false
representation to false accounting, forgery, obtaining a money
transfer by deception, fraud by abuse of position and fraudulent
trading. He has pleaded not guilty.
Alderman said he had wanted only to make the government
agency more efficient and had asked Williamson, who joined the
SFO on secondment in mid-2008, to review and speed up the
process of launching investigations.
Though Williamson had started taking decisions about which
cases the SFO should investigate shortly after her appointment,
Alderman told the court that he had frequent meetings and
communication with her, was aware of her decisions and was
"heavily involved" in Weavering.
"Ms Williamson would not have taken these decisions had I
not given her the authority to do so," he said. But he conceded
that he did not have any document detailing the delegation of
The case hinges in part on whether Alderman had the power to
delegate decisions to launch investigations, whether delegation
was to the right person and made with appropriate care and
whether there was serious misconduct.
Peter Lodder, a senior lawyer for Peterson, said he found
Alderman's answers "deeply disturbing".
"In essence ... we are saying there is an element of almost
chaos in the way the office is run ... You cannot rely on this
evidence. There is no actual firm evidence of this delegation
having taken place - just the assumption it must have happened."
The judge will make his decision over the next few weeks.
However, the argument that Alderman had no right to delegate
the authority to launch investigations has already been
discussed at a separate criminal case decided in the SFO's
Alderman, who left the SFO in 2012, has already been
reprimanded by parliamentarians, who accused him last March of
running a "sloppy and slovenly" operation and agreeing to exotic
senior staff packages and payoffs with scant regard to the
public purse or proper procedure.
The SFO initially dropped its 2-1/2 year investigation into
Weavering in 2011 but reopened the case under new SFO director
The decision to reopen the investigation marked one of
several U-turns under Green, who joined a demoralised and
under-funded SFO in April 2012, vowing to prosecute more
high-level fraud and restore faith in the agency.