The Serious Fraud Office (SFO) is to be given an increased annual budget.
This time last year, the SFO’s future was in doubt, with Prime Minister Theresa May making a pre-election pledge to have it absorbed into the National Crime Agency. But now, it is set to see its 2018-19 budget increased from the planned £34.3M to £52.7M.
There will also be changes to what has been called “blockbuster” funding. Instead of applying for separate blockbuster funding for the full cost of any case forecast to cost more than 5% of the SFO’s core budget, blockbuster funding will now cover SFO expenditure that exceeds £2.5m on any single case in a given year.
Importantly for the SFO, the new arrangement removes the ring fencing of resources allocated to blockbuster cases. It will not need to manage two separate funding sources, will have to rely less on temporary staff and will be able to reallocate staff from case to case whenever this is required.
The SFO’s annual funding has varied from £38M to £61M since blockbuster funding was introduced six years ago.
Aziz Rahman, founder of Rahman Ravelli, said the funding arrangement is likely to make it easier for the SFO to manage its resources.
He added: “For the SFO, this resolves a long-running issue. It may simplify the way the SFO has to manage investigations.
“For those investigated by the SFO, the same challenges remain. If faced with an SFO investigation, a defence needs to be robust and conducted by those who have expertise in dealing with such cases and knowledge of how the SFO builds its cases.
“Challenging SFO assumptions, producing the evidence and legal argument to mount those challenges and knowing when and how to negotiate with the SFO will remain the key skills – regardless of the SFO’s financial situation.’’
Read our article: THE SERIOUS FRAUD OFFICE: WAYS TO DEAL WITH IT