Whatever the nature of the SFO’s investigation or the amount of evidence it believes it has, the right legal advice will help the individual or corporate being investigated secure the best possible outcome.
It is important that a defence strategy is put in place as early as possible to deal with any investigation. What is said to the SFO from day one will have a huge impact on the eventual outcome. For that reason, gaining the right legal representation immediately is vital.
Rahman Ravelli creates a defence team tailored to your case, staffed by lawyers experienced in dealing with the SFO and its foreign counterparts. Our lawyers have in-depth knowledge of how these organisations proceed with investigations.
DEALING WITH THE SFO
We are a firm that has successfully represented clients in some of the biggest and most high-profile cases that the SFO has brought. Rahman Ravelli is involved in a large number of the most notable global corruption and fraud cases currently active.
We have acted in cases involving: hundreds of millions of pounds; multi-jurisdictional investigations, including cases where investigations were carried out in dozens of countries; varying complex commodity arrangements; investment frauds; corporate frauds; large-scale pension frauds, property frauds; long drawn-out investigations and prosecutions.
At Rahman Ravelli, we believe that legal representation is required the moment it is known that the SFO is taking an interest in a company or individual. As the first stages of an SFO investigation are among the most important, we make sure clients have the most robust defence from the very first hint of an investigation.
This defence may involve some or more of the issues listed below. More details are available in the IMMEDIATE STEPS section and elsewhere on our website.
The SFO was established in April 1988, its remit has never been to prosecute all cases referred to it; it takes on the largest most complex cases. This has tended to mean investigations where the amount at risk is at least £1 million and cases of national concern.
SFO cases often also involve highly specialised knowledge, a significant international dimension or a need for legal, accountancy and investigative skills to be brought together as a combined operation.
Major bribery and corruption cases are likely to be handled by the SFO. INVESTIGATIVE POWERS AND S2 NOTICES
The SFO has unique powers regarding the production of documents and interviewing. It has stated that if it compels a person to attend an interview under Section 2 of the Criminal Justice Act, there is no guarantee that the person’s solicitor will be allowed to attend.
Anyone facing such an interview, therefore, needs a solicitor capable of arguing why they should be allowed into the interview – someone able to challenge SFO assumptions and mount the most robust defence possible.
Instances of companies self-reporting to the SFO are on the rise. The SFO has said that it does make offers not to prosecute those who self-report – but there is no guarantee this will happen to everyone who self-reports.
Even if the SFO offers a non-prosecution deal for self-reporting, this will not cover any other violations that were not self-reported – and the SFO may still pass information about the reported violations to the police or other authorities.
When it comes to self-reporting, the speed with which it is done and the amount of information disclosed can be crucial. Seeking expert legal advice is equally important.
DEFERRED PROSECUTION AGREEMENTS
The SFO now has deferred prosecution agreements (DPA’s) at its disposal. These involve companies reporting, admitting and then paying a penalty for wrongdoing as well as subjecting themselves to stringent conditions to prevent any further illegal activity.
With DPA’s being a relatively new legal development for both the SFO and the companies it investigates, it is important that anyone considering entering into a DPA seeks expert advice to protect their interests.
We are involved in active cases involving DPA’s. It is an evolving area of law. Corporates looking to obtain a DPA must know how to carry out an internal investigation and how to approach the authorities once this is complete. Negotiation skills and experience of dealing with the SFO are essential if a DPA is to be secured on the most favourable terms.
At Rahman Ravelli, we have in-depth experience and knowledge of which aspects of such cases to emphasise. We can make recommendations to companies to help prevent wrongdoing recurring or even happening in the first place. We can also steer them through their dealings with the SFO throughout the whole DPA process; both in trying to obtain one and then in negotiating its terms.
SEARCH WARRANTS AND RAIDS
The SFO is likely to apply for a search warrant if it has reasonable grounds to suspect that an offence has been committed and that there may be material on the premises that would be of value to an investigation.
It may be possible to challenge the SFO on procedural rules regarding the application for the warrant and the conduct of the subsequent search. Such challenges can prove an important defence tool but it is important to remember that not all prosecution errors in this field will lead to a search warrant being quashed or evidence ruled inadmissible.
The right legal challenge can, however, be a strong, early part of any proactive defence of a client.
If the SFO obtains a warrant to raid premises, the company or individual has to have access to legal experts who can ensure the raiders do not exceed their powers regarding their conduct or the seizing, treatment and return of potential evidence. The SFO will in most circumstances wait for a reasonable period before starting the search. It is advisable to have a lawyer present.