Fraud case offices supply SFO staff: Labour says use of secondees in fraud office raises doubts about ability to carry out investigations

THE Serious Fraud Office is staffed by people seconded from some of the same City firms which have acted for people and companies involved in major fraud scandals.

Almost half the SFO's 250-strong workforce are police officers, lawyers and accountants on temporary assignment. Three of the agency's assistant directorships are, or have recently been, filled by secondees from City accountant firms, all of which have in some way been involved in recent fraud scandals:

Mark Ballamy is a partner at Price Waterhouse, BCCI's auditors;

Peter Hyatt is from Neville Russell, the same firm that audited the accounts of Glen International, the former company of Terry Ramsden, currently awaiting trial on 22 charges of fraudulent trading;

The third assistant directorship is currently vacant but was occupied until recently by Ian Huntingdon from KPMG Peat Marwick, one-time auditors to Brent Walker and Eagle Trust.

Of the 250-strong workforce, only 136 are permanent SFO employees. Eighty are police officers on attachment and the remainder come from City accountancy and law firms.

The City secondees are often paid much more than their colleagues in the civil service and police force. Alistair Darling, Labour spokesman on the City and financial services, said the use of so many secondees raised serious questions about the SFO's ability to carry out investigations. 'In any organisation, unless you have people who have got loyalty to the organisation itself, you have got problems,' he said.

Mr Darling recalled how on a recent visit to the SFO's headquarters in Elm Street, central London, he asked a police officer if he was looking forward to seeing a long-running investigation through to its successful conclusion. 'He said he was going back to his force during the next week to take over its traffic division,' Mr Darling said. 'He was doing that because his career was with the police, not with the SFO.'

While he was not opposed to secondment in principle, Mr Darling said the way it was currently managed at the SFO could give rise to conflicts of interest and morale problems. 'When you have two people sitting at the same desk and one is paid substantially more than the other, it shouldn't matter, but people are human and it does.'

The use of so many secondees may go some way towards explaining what sources close to the Attorney General, Sir Nicholas Lyell, have recently been calling 'a lack of esprit de corps' at the organisation.

George Staple, the SFO director, said on Radio 4 yesterday that the official who is alleged to have accepted that he was engaged in an improper 'fishing expedition' for information about Asil Nadir's affairs, was not a member of staff. 'He has for some time been in private practice,' Mr Staple said.

A spokeswoman for the SFO said secondees were required to sign the Official Secrets Act. The SFO pays the City firms a civil service salary and pension contribution. After that, the level of pay is up to the individual firm.

She emphasised that all SFO staff were vetted and assistant directors were allocated cases that would not put them in a position of conflict with any other SFO investigation. She said it was the responsibility of the deputy director to ensure that conflicts did not arise. 'In addition, the parent firms confirm prior to a secondment that secondees will advise the SFO of any potential conflicts of interest.'

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
i100 In this video, the late actor Leonard Nimoy explains how he decided to use the gesture for his character
Arts and Entertainment
Secrets of JK Rowling's Harry Potter workings have been revealed in a new bibliography
arts + ents
Down-to-earth: Winstone isn't one for considering his 'legacy'
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Sauce Recruitment: Retail Planning Manager - Home Entertainment UK

salary equal to £40K pro-rata: Sauce Recruitment: Are you available to start a...

Ashdown Group: Front-End Developer - London - up to £40,000

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Creative Front-End Developer - Claph...

Recruitment Genius: Product Quality Assurance Technologist - Hardline & Electric

£18000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The role in this successful eco...

Ashdown Group: QA Tester - London - £30,000

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: QA Tester - London - £30,000 QA Tes...

Day In a Page

HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

Time to play God

Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

MacGyver returns, but with a difference

Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

Tunnel renaissance

Why cities are hiding roads underground
'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

Boys to men

The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

Crufts 2015

Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
10 best projectors

How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

Monaco: the making of Wenger

Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

Homage or plagiarism?

'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower