SFO abandons Gooda Walker crime inquiry

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The Independent Online
THE SERIOUS Fraud Office yesterday abandoned inquiries into the heavily loss-making Gooda Walker syndicates at Lloyd's, leaving proceedings to the insurance market's own internal committees.

The news is likely to anger the aggrieved names on the Gooda Walker syndicates who have turned down an offer of compensation from Lloyd's and are launching civil actions for damages.

There is now little likelihood of criminal action against Gooda Walker executives because the SFO has decided the odds are against convincing a jury that what happened was criminal, given the highly technical nature of the case.

Legal experts suggested the end of criminal investigations could speed the civil actions by removing an excuse defendants have used to avoid co-operating.

The decision to hand the affair over to Lloyd's is the first important example of the SFO's new policy of sending borderline cases to civil regulators when they may be able to impose penalties more easily. The burden of proof needed to sack people from the Lloyd's market is much lower than in a criminal action.

The SFO confirmed that its investigation into matters referred to it by Gooda Walker Run Off Limited, the rump company, had now ceased and no criminal proceedings had been started.

George Staple, the director of the SFO, was aware that a parallel investigation by the legal department of Lloyd's was under way into the affairs of Gooda Walker. The SFO was co-operating closely with this.

Lloyd's made it clear that its own investigations would be carried out in the normal disciplinary framework, which could lead to hearings before market committees. But these are in secret and results are only announced after charges have been proved, decisions have been taken, penalties imposed and all the appeal procedures finished.

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