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Britain's FBI 'is a dismal failure'

Paul Lashmar
Sunday 18 May 2008 00:00 BST

Britain's answer to the FBI, the Serious Organised Crime Agency (Soca), has been branded a disaster by the law enforcement chief whose proposals in 2003 led to its creation.

Terry Byrne, former director-general for law enforcement at Customs & Excise, said the agency was failing and its performance was "dismal". He added: "The agency is claiming to have seized 84 tons of cocaine across the world, yet the availability of cocaine in the UK is at an all-time high and street prices at an all-time low. This is not the agency I envisaged and I would not have proposed the transfer of Customs drugs responsibilities and resources to such an organisation if I had known how it was going to be so ill-directed."

Launched in April 2006, Soca took over responsibilities from the National Crime Squad, Customs, MI5 and the National Criminal Intelligence Service. Its director-general, Bill Hughes, has dismissed criticism of its lack of high-profile success, saying it was in "a marathon, not a sprint".

For the first two years Soca's prime focus was on a list of 130 "Mr Bigs" of UK crime. Mr Byrne asked: "How professional was Soca intelligence if it took nearly two years to identify that some were dead, incarcerated or low-level criminals doing little damage?"

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