The Conservatives’ election pledge to scrap the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) has been described as a damaging mistake by one of the UK’s leading business crime solicitors.
Theresa May has vowed to abolish the SFO as part of plans to improve the UK's handling of white-collar crime. If the Conservatives win next month's General Election, the Prime Minister intends to have the SFO’s work taken on by the National Crime Agency (NCA).
But Aziz Rahman, of national and international business crime solicitors Rahman Ravelli, has warned that such a move would have a damaging effect on the UK’s approach to tackling white-collar crime. Mr Rahman called the plan “misconceived’’ and argued that there was no need to abolish the SFO.
Mrs May twice considered taking this step when she was Home Secretary. She believes it will strengthen Britain’s response to white-collar crime by boosting intelligence sharing.
But Mr Rahman, whose firm is one of the highest-ranked business crime legal practices in the UK, said: "The Conservatives’ plan to end the SFO is misconceived and is likely to do little or no good for the investigation of business crime.
“There can be no argument that the investigation and prosecution of the most serious fraud cases in the UK requires specialist knowledge and resources. This is what the SFO has. I cannot see any reason to dismantle it.
“I would be the first to say the SFO has had its faults – and I have been critical of it at times - but there can be no doubt that, in recent years, the SFO has grown into a respected world-class brand.
“Bringing an end to the SFO will mean the loss of an organisation that has both a strong identity and a huge amount of specialist expertise and experience in its field. Trying to replicate its work in another organisation seems a risk that can bring little, if any benefit, to the UK. This could prove to be a very damaging mistake.’’