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February 3, 2009

Wikipedia: Serious Fraud Office (United Kingdom)

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Serious Fraud Office
Abbreviation SFO
Agency Overview
Formed 1988
Preceding agencies
  • Serious fraud units of various United Kingdom police forces
  • Serious fraud unit of the Crown Prosecution Service
Legal personality Governmental agency
Jurisdictional Structure
National agency
(Operations jurisdiction)
United Kingdom
Legal jurisdiction England and Wales and Northern Ireland (not Scotland, the Isle of Man or the Channel Islands)
Constituting instrument Criminal Justice Act 1987
General nature
  • Civilian agency
Specialist jurisdiction Serious or complex fraud, commercial crime, fraud covering multiple lower level jurisdictions.
Operational Structure
Agency executive Richard Alderman, Director

The Serious Fraud Office (SFO) is an arm of the Government of the United Kingdom, accountable to the Attorney-General. Established by the Criminal Justice Act 1987, the Serious Fraud Office is responsible for the investigation and prosecution of suspected cases of serious or complex fraud where £1 million or more are involved or covers more than one national jurisdiction, though it is rare for cases involving less than £1 million to be taken. It has jurisdiction over England and Wales and Northern Ireland but not Scotland, the Isle of Man or the Channel Islands, though the Serious Fraud Office’s compulsory information powers contained in section 2 of the Criminal Justice Act 1987 do so under invitation from the relevant prosecuting body. The SFO normally has a caseload of 80 ongoing cases taking on 30 to 40 new cases a year. The vast majority of fraud in the United Kingdom remains the responsibilty of police forces. The SFO is not a police force and its members have no direct personal executive powers, such as the power of arrest. Each case is dealt with by a case team made up of various professionals such as lawyers, forensic accountants and police officers seconded from police forces. The police officers remain members of their relevant police force for the duration of their secondmant and it is they who would arrest if the investigation required it. Only non-police members of the case team are permitted to use powers under section 2 of the Criminal Justice Act 1987.

The SFO’s premises in Elm Street, London

The SFO was established in 1988 after the Roskill Report recommended that this specialist duty be taken away from normal police forces and the Crown Prosecution Service. The report came in the wake of several failed prosecutions

The Director is Richard Alderman, a former prosecuting lawyer at the Inland Revenue, and later head of Special Civil Investigations at HM Revenue & Customs. Mr Alderman was appointed on 21 April 2008, replacing Robert Wardle.


Significant investigations

Al Yamamah Arms Deal

The SFO was involved in investigating allegations of corruption occurring at the arms manufacturer, BAE Systems, as part of the Al Yamamah arms deal. The enquiry was halted in December 2006 because of a claimed “…need to safeguard national and international security.”[1]

The SFO was rebuked by the OECD in March 2007 for dropping this enquiry.[2] The UK is a signatory to the OECD Anti-Bribery Convention which is aims to reduce corruption. If it is true that BAE Systems paid bribes as part of contracts, as is alleged, then this would be contrary to the OECD convention.

However, on 30 July 2008, the Law Lords overturned the decision by the High Court that the SFO had acted unlawfully by a vote of 5-0.[3]

Langbar International Fraud

Langbar International is a company that was listed on the Alternative Investment Market of the London Stock Exchange as Crown Corporation Limited in 2003 and is subject of the biggest share fraud on the Exchange to date. It is presently being investigated by the Serious Fraud Office[4][5][6][7][8][9] and the City of London Police and is also subject of many civil legal actions in the High Court.[10][11][12][13][14][15][16][17]

Crown Corporation, which changed its name to Langbar International Limited in 2005, was a Pump and Dump fraud, in that the company did not have the assets that it declared at listing.[18][19][20]

Despite the fact that Langbar was at one time worth over $1 billion, a quarter of the value of Enron (where 21 people were guilty), and was supposed to be worth £375 million ($750 million) when the fraud was discovered in 2005, there have been no arrests so far by the Serious Fraud Office or the Police. The whereabouts of all those involved are known.


  • Barry Townsley – Labour donor involved in the “Cash for Honours” affair

SFO in the media

Private Eye, which often cites what it sees as toothlessness or incompetence on the part of the SFO, nearly always calls it the “Serious Farce Office” and others have dubbed it the “Seriously Flawed Office” for similar reasons.

External links

  • Serious Fraud Office


  1. ^ “”
  2. ^ OECD rebukes Britain for dropping Saudi arms deal bribery inquiry by Rob Evans The Guardian 15 March 2007
  3. ^ “Lords says SFO Saudi move lawful”
  4. ^ SFO Press Releases 29 November 2005
  5. ^ “Fraud inquiry starts into shell firm’s missing millions” by Simon Bowers The Guardian 26 November 2005
  6. ^ “Langbar faces SFO probe over possible missing cash” by David Blackwell Financial Times 26 November 2005
  7. ^ “SFO inquiry on way into fall of Langbar” by Robert Miller Daily Telegraph 26 November 2005
  8. ^ “Fraud office launches inquiry into Langbar” by Simon Bowers The Guardian 30 November 2005
  9. ^ “Langbar: The SFO are called in” by Eric Barkas Yorkshire Post 29 November 2005
  10. ^ “Langbar sues over missing £365m” BBC News 13 March 2006
  11. ^ “Langbar accuses two ex-directors of ‘conspiracy to defraud'” by Simon Bowers The Guardian 14 March 2006
  12. ^ “Langbar makes £29m claim” by James Rossiter Evening Standard 14 March 2006
  13. ^ “Langbar launches $477m suit against Rybak, others” by James Bagnall Ottawa Citizen 14 March 2006
  14. ^ “Langbar launches action against former directors” by Nicholas Neveling Accountancy Age 14 March 2006
  15. ^ “Langbar launches legal challenges” by Graeme Davies Investors Chronicle 17 March 2006
  16. ^ “Holders launch Langbar claim” by Nikki Tait Financial Times 22 December 2006
  17. ^ “Campaigner has to fight for himself” by Martin Waller The Times 21 April 2007
  18. ^ “Langbar chief in investor talks over ‘missing £365m'” by Caroline Merrell The Times 1 December 2005
  19. ^ “A Crown farce: how Langbar mislaid £365m” by Paul Durman and Louise Armitstead The Sunday Times 4 December 2005
  20. ^ “AIM becomes victim of £365m fraud” by Michael Jivkov The Independent 26 November 2005

See also

  • Fraud
  • Al Yamamah
  • Langbar International Limited
  • Barry Townsley
  • City of London Police
This text comes from Wikipedia. Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2 or any later version published by the Free Software Foundation; with no Invariant Sections, no Front-Cover Texts, and no Back-Cover Texts. For a complete list of contributors for this article, visit the corresponding history entry on Wikipedia.

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