Specialists in Serious Fraud and Complex Criminal Defence
The Serious Fraud Office (SFO) has wide-ranging investigatory and prosecution powers. They can involve multiple agencies and are often cross-jurisdictional.
Our London-based solicitors specialise in advising on SFO investigations. Defending serious fraud is one of the key areas of our practice and our team has a wealth of experience in advising clients who are being investigated by the SFO. Not only will we explain the process of the SFO investigation to you, but we will also critically examine every piece of evidence presented by the investigating authority, carefully take your instructions, and build a strong, persuasive case in your favour.
It is important in these cases to secure representation and obtain early involvement by a specialist fraud solicitor at the earliest stage of the investigation in order that we can properly advise and safeguard your interest. Sometimes early intervention and involvement can mean that the investigation is resolved without the need for criminal proceedings. Our fraud team is partner-led, able to swiftly work through the elements of an investigation to build a robust defence for you or your company.
To contact us regarding an SFO investigation, please call our office on 020 3824 8080 to make an appointment at our London office.
We are one of the most experienced firms in the UK dealing with SFO investigations and prosecutions. We are proficient, not only in UK law but in acting for clients who have been accused of cross-jurisdictional offences.
If you are subject to an SFO investigation, it is crucial that you take the process seriously and instruct a solicitor experienced in SFO investigations to advise and represent you. Our experience and in-depth knowledge of the law surrounding serious fraud means we can confidently deal with even the most complex cases.
What is the SFO?
The SFO is part of the UK criminal justice system covering England, Wales and Northern Ireland. The prosecuting authority takes on a small number of complex fraud, bribery and corruption cases involving large-scale economic crime.
When deciding whether to take on a case, the Director of the SFO applies his Statement of Principle, which includes consideration of:
- Whether the alleged criminality undermines the City of London and the UK’s general commercial and financial interest
- The severity of the actual or potential financial loss
- The likely harm of the actual or potential financial loss
- The public interest in the matter
- Whether the matter constitutes a new species of fraud?
In addition, the SFO can now investigate and prosecute the new offence of corporate failure to prevent the facilitation of overseas tax evasion. The body can also pursue those to pay back the money made from their crimes and assist other nations in investigating and prosecuting cross-jurisdictional serious fraud.
If you are being investigated by the SFO, you need to instruct a solicitor who understands the complexity surrounding fraud and white-collar crime. As a firm, we specialise in these areas of law and have advised and represented numerous corporations and individuals who have been subjected to an SFO investigation and/or prosecution.
How do the SFO investigate?
Because the SFO only investigates the most serious of fraud and white-collar crime cases, it works on the cutting-edge of criminal law and often breaks new grounds of investigative procedures and prosecutions. Therefore, it is crucial to instruct a team of solicitors that have an in-depth experience in advising on these complex and lengthy cases.
Getting expert advice early on in the investigation is crucial. We can assist you in answering questions before the attitudes of the investigators become fixed; a tactic that is often successful in shaping the overall investigation to our clients’ advantage. Highly complex fraud cases can involve new or ‘grey areas’ of law which provides opportunities for our defence team to argue the conduct is not sufficient to constitute a criminal offence.
The SFO has the power to interview individuals under caution, conduct raids, and freeze assets. At MPR Solicitors our fraud solicitors have successfully assisted clients facing the full force of the SFO’s powers, ensuring the investigators refrain from exceeding their authority and act in a fair manner.
Will the SFO enter into a Deferred Prosecution Agreement?
A UK Deferred Prosecution Agreement (DPA) is an agreement between a prosecutor and an organisation which has the potential to be prosecuted, stating the prosecution will be deferred if specific conditions are met.
A DPA is supervised by a judge and can be used for fraud, bribery, corruption, and other economic crime. An individual cannot enter into a DPA, as they are only available to corporations.
The SFO will consider a DPA. From various speeches by SFO officials, the following themes can be deduced regarding the agency’s attitude to DPAs:
- Early and effective cooperation with the SFO and strong indicators of reform are key to securing a DPA—disingenuous efforts to cooperate are more likely to result in prosecution
- Self-reporting is advantageous—corporates are encouraged to self-report as early as possible
- While failing to self-report leaves a company at a disadvantage, it can overcome its failure to self-report by extensive (‘remarkable’) ongoing cooperation with the SFO investigation
- The SFO is looking for an open and free-flowing dialogue with representatives on legal issues including legal professional privilege, to arrive at pragmatic solutions; therefore, traditional litigation tactics should be avoided
- Where a corporation fully, unambiguously, and proactively cooperates with an SFO investigation, the extent of criminality uncovered will not be a bar to a DPA being achieved
Our teams have successfully secured DPAs for corporations and have a deep understanding of the motivations behind DPAs being granted. If your goal is to secure a DPA, we can advise you on the best way to ensure this outcome.
The SFO positively encourages corporate bodies and companies to self-report any violations of the law. It states that this will be a relevant consideration when it comes to deciding whether or not to prosecute. There is a self-reporting process and guidance which they apply.
Our fraud solicitors will be able to advise you on the appropriate course of action and guide you through the process based on the nature of the violations and your circumstances and that of your company.
Assisting you if the case proceeds to charge
Should an SFO investigation lead to a charge, we will robustly defend your interests throughout the trial process.
We have vast experience of defending in the most serious and complex cases.
We have a number of barristers and crown court advocates at the firm, as well as having close links with some of the leading barrister’s chambers in the country. We will always match the right advocate or barrister to our client’s needs, to ensure we achieve the best results possible.
To contact our solicitors regarding an SFO investigation and/or prosecution in complete confidence, please call 020 3824 8080 or fill in our contact form to get in touch.