Serious Fraud Office: Covid-19

Attorney General – in the House of Commons on 24th September 2020.

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Photo of Ian Levy Ian Levy Conservative, Blyth Valley

What assessment she has made of the effectiveness of the Serious Fraud Office’s response to the covid-19 outbreak.

Photo of Bob Blackman Bob Blackman Conservative, Harrow East

What assessment she has made of the effectiveness of the Serious Fraud Office’s response to the covid-19 outbreak.

Photo of Michael Ellis Michael Ellis The Solicitor-General

The Serious Fraud Office responded quickly to the disruption caused by covid, and it has continued to progress casework during this period. Notably, it has achieved a conclusion of the prosecutions in the Unaoil case, reached a deferred prosecution agreement with G4S, laid charges in the GPT case and obtained asset confiscation orders in other cases. The SFO’s ability to maintain operational effectiveness during covid was recognised in the report on its response to the pandemic that was published by the Crown Prosecution Service inspectorate.

Photo of Ian Levy Ian Levy Conservative, Blyth Valley

Will my right hon. and learned Friend please explain what steps the Serious Fraud Office has taken to minimise any delays to its investigations caused by covid-19?

Photo of Michael Ellis Michael Ellis The Solicitor-General

The chief investigator of the SFO led a taskforce in relation to covid, to assess all operational activity that was initially halted by the pandemic as part of the office’s wider recovery planning. In addition, general counsel for the Serious Fraud Office introduced virtual systems for reviewing cases and virtual processes. We have been monitoring the SFO closely and it has been performing well in very difficult circumstances.

Photo of Bob Blackman Bob Blackman Conservative, Harrow East

Thank you, ground control.

I thank my right hon. and learned Friend for his answers thus far. Will he go a bit further on the recent deferred prosecution agreements, including those with G4S and with Airbus? What assessment has he made of the benefits of DPAs as a tool for prosecuting those accused of such offences?

Photo of Michael Ellis Michael Ellis The Solicitor-General

I thank my hon. Friend. DPAs are very important. They are extremely powerful tools that hold companies to account, and the SFO remains committed to using them. Since 2014, the SFO has agreed eight DPAs, five of which were for overseas corruption offences. The total value to the Treasury of all eight DPAs was around £1.58 billion, so I do hope that Her Majesty’s Treasury is listening; they bring large sums of money into the Exchequer.