Top judge to beef up Fraud Office after string of bungles

QC with a terrifying reputation as a judge hired by new head of the SFO

The new head of the embattled Serious Fraud Office has put a tough former judge on the payroll to aid his attempts at cracking down on City crime.

David Green, who last Friday launched an investigation into the Libor scandal and reopened its inquiry into the Weavering hedge fund, has hired Geoffrey Rivlin QC to advise him on bringing cases to court.

Mr Green is trying to improve the SFO's reputation for competence following its bungled investigation into Vincent Tchenguiz, which resulted in the organisation dropping its case and apologising to the tycoon.

Mr Green, who has practised as a QC himself, said Mr Rivlin will focus on making sure cases are of a high quality when they reach the courts.

Mr Rivlin, who retired last year as senior resident judge at Southwark Crown Court, is to be paid £100,000 a year for the role, which lasts for two years. He had a terrifying reputation among senior lawyers. The Eversheds partner Neill Blundell, said: "He was an absolute stickler for detail. Extremely pernickity. Boy did you know it if you got it wrong in his court." He added that Mr Rivlin would be extremely effective at killing off unwinnable cases in their early stages, or recommending improvements. "It's extremely innovative of Mr Green," he said.

Another leading fraud lawyer said: "He'll be brilliant at making sure cases are in good nick when they come to trial. But I pity the people working for him. He's not very likeable. Like a lot of judges, he's worked on his own for a long time. How will he be able to manage people at the SFO?"

Mr Rivlin will support the work of another newcomer to the organisation, Alan Milford, currently head of organised crime at the Crown Prosecution Service.

Mr Green, who took over from Richard Alderman in April, arrived on a mission to, in his words: "recharge the SFO's corporate self-respect and lead it to the top of its game as a major crime fighting agency".

Lawyers said the move could help to improve morale at the organisation, which has seen a number of notable departures. "We're talking here about an organisation known for people leaving, either for other regulators, or better-paid jobs with big American law firms. News of big names arriving has got to be good," said one lawyer.

The SFO's staff were told of the moves yesterday in an address in which Mr Green was accompanied by Dominic Grieve, the Attorney General. Grieve in February reportedly ordered a probe into the running of the organisation to be carried out by the head of the CPS Inspectorate, after the collapse of several major investigations.

Mr Rivlin has tried many cases over his long career as a judge, famously jailing for seven years the chief executive of the collapsed Independent Insurance empire.

SFO slip-ups

2012 Tchenguiz brothers inquiry leaves it forced to admit a series of mistakes and apologising to Vincent Tchenguiz.

2011 Dropped probe into Weavering just weeks before a successful civil claim. Has now resumed case.

2010 Drops investigation into the disastrous collapse of AIG Financial Products – a major player in the financial crisis.

2010 Ceases inquiries into the Madoff UK division, leaving the investigation to overseas authorities.

2010 Controversially drops inquiry into BAE Tanzanian defence contract in return for £29.5m charity donation from BAE.

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