Leading article: No cause to duck reform of the SFO

 

Share
Related Topics

There will be much rejoicing in the Serious Fraud Office over the multiple guilty verdicts on Asil Nadir, 17 years after he fled the UK claiming that his business affairs were being investigated improperly. In returning to face a British court, Nadir appeared to gamble that time had reduced the potency of the case against him. It had not – not least because his conduct lost a lot of people a lot of money. His company, Polly Peck International – a household name in its day – will go down in the annals as a byword for dishonest business.

The 10 guilty verdicts far outweighed the two acquittals, finally bringing to an end a case that had long stood as a reminder of the SFO's lack of competence. And that is to be welcomed. But one high-profile conviction does not dilute in any way the arguments for reforming the SFO, which remain compelling. Last month, the Office had to drop its probe of the Tchenguiz brothers after the court found it had lost documents and overlooked key financial reports in what one judge described as "sheer incompetence". Then it reopened its two-year investigation into the collapsed hedge fund Weavering Capital which it had previously closed, saying there was no reasonable prospect of conviction, although a civil case had succeeded to the tune of £450m.

Most recently, questions have been raised about the SFO's failure to heed warnings about the fixing of the Libor rate at the time when the scams were being committed. There are older blemishes on its reputation, too, including the very modest penalty it extracted from BAE Systems over sales of radar to Tanzania, an apparent over-eagerness to cut deals and the tardiness of many investigations.

The high court has said the SFO lacks the resources to pursue complex economic crimes and needs more money – which may be so. But its new director, David Green QC, has his work cut out to restore its reputation and the soundness of its decision making. The successful prosecution of Nadir cannot erase the lengthy catalogue of concern. Unfortunately for the SFO, this signal victory has to be hailed as the exception that proves the rule.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

HR Business Partner (Maternity Cover 12 Months)

£30000 - £34000 Per Annum 25 days holiday, Private healthcare: Clearwater Peop...

Business Analyst - London - Banking - £400-£450

£400 - £450 per day: Orgtel: Business Analyst - Credit Risk - Banking - London...

Application Engineer - Flow Metering

£40000 - £50000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: Application ...

Chemical Engineer/Project Coordinator

£40000 - £45000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: Chemical Eng...

Day In a Page

The children were playing in the street with toy guns. The air strikes were tragically real

The air strikes were tragically real

The children were playing in the street with toy guns
Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite – The British, as others see us

Britain as others see us

Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite
Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them altogether

Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them

Jonathon Porritt sounds the alarm
How did our legends really begin?

How did our legends really begin?

Applying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
Watch out: Lambrusco is back on the menu

Lambrusco is back on the menu

Naff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz
A new Russian revolution: Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc

A new Russian revolution

Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
Eugene de Kock: Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

The debate rages in South Africa over whether Eugene de Kock should ever be released from jail
Standing my ground: If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?

Standing my ground

If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
Commonwealth Games 2014: Dai Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Welsh hurdler was World, European and Commonwealth champion, but then the injuries crept in
Israel-Gaza conflict: Secret report helps Israelis to hide facts

Patrick Cockburn: Secret report helps Israel to hide facts

The slickness of Israel's spokesmen is rooted in directions set down by pollster Frank Luntz
The man who dared to go on holiday

The man who dared to go on holiday

New York's mayor has taken a vacation - in a nation that has still to enforce paid leave, it caused quite a stir, reports Rupert Cornwell
Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
The Guest List 2014: Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks

The Guest List 2014

Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
Jokes on Hollywood: 'With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on'

Jokes on Hollywood

With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on