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Serious Fraud Office: Covid-19

Volume 680: debated on Thursday 24 September 2020

What assessment she has made of the effectiveness of the Serious Fraud Office’s response to the covid-19 outbreak. (906445)

What assessment she has made of the effectiveness of the Serious Fraud Office’s response to the covid-19 outbreak. (906459)

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.

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?

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.

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?

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.