Author: Azizur Rahman 7 July 2023
Law360 asked Aziz Rahman for his assessment of the main issues that face Nick Ephgrave as he prepares to take over as Director of the Serious Fraud Office (SFO).
Aziz explained that one immediate challenge will be to address the criticisms levelled at the SFO over how it investigates and manages cases, particularly with disclosure failings having led to the collapse of high-profile prosecutions and convictions being overturned.
He said: "He is arriving at an agency that has been accused of a lack of oversight and even a reluctance to respond appropriately when evidence uncovered during disclosure review runs counter to the original case theory. Such problems have to be tackled.
"The issue of disclosure is a major one for the SFO — and one that shows no signs of going away in the immediate future. It is likely to prove a major challenge for the new director, who will have the task of implementing any reforms and ensuring his agency can ensure previous problems are consigned to the past."
Aziz questioned whether Nick Ephgrave would see his priority as being to combat international corporate crime or targeting boardroom culture.
He added that his appointment has been announced as the Economic Crime and Corporate Transparency Bill is set expand the notion of corporate criminal liability and introduce an offence of failure to prevent fraud. This, according to Aziz, may lead to the SFO being “more on the front foot’’ when it comes to prosecuting corporates.
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Aziz Rahman is Senior Partner at Rahman Ravelli and its founder. His ability to coordinate national, international and multi-agency defences has led to success in some of the most significant corporate crime cases of this century and top rankings in international legal guides. He is recognised worldwide as one of the most capable legal experts regarding top-level, high-value commercial and financial disputes.