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Proceeds of Crime

Volume 708: debated on Thursday 10 February 2022

9. What recent assessment she has made of the effectiveness of the Serious Fraud Office in recovering the proceeds of crime. (905582)

The SFO has had a very positive year in delivering on its commitment to recover the proceeds of crime. [Interruption.] If the hon. Member for Huddersfield (Mr Sheerman) will listen, so far in 2021-22 the SFO has obtained more than £44.5 million in new financial orders from the courts, and at the same time it has successfully recovered more than £45 million by enforcing these and existing orders. Those are the largest recorded sums obtained and recovered in a single year by the SFO.

I thank my hon. and learned Friend for his response and hope that there is some hope therein for my constituents who, just two years ago almost to the day, wrote to me about their personal case of how the London Capital & Finance scandal had impacted them. In October of 2021, the only update offered by the SFO was that investigations were ongoing. What assessment can he make of that progress, and what hope can I offer my constituents?

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for very properly pressing this case on behalf of her constituents. The SFO continues to investigate the dealings of London Capital & Finance plc and associated companies. The size and complexity of those cases, including the sheer number of victims and witnesses, means that it can take a significant period for a full investigation to be carried out. I meet the SFO director regularly to discuss casework, and I can assure my hon. Friend that driving forward the fastest possible case progression is a priority for me and for the Attorney General. I want to end with this point: over the last five years, thanks to the work of the SFO, a full £1.3 billion has been returned to taxpayers over and above the costs of running the SFO.

The Minister will be aware of actions that have been taken against the Serious Fraud Office and individuals who work for it by those who seek to hide money—ill-gotten gains—that they wish to launder. It is disturbing that they can take action against individuals who work for agencies that are there to investigate such crimes and criminal behaviour. What action can be taken to protect those individuals from such abusive litigation?

I am happy to discuss that matter with the hon. Gentleman. Where criticisms are made of the Serious Fraud Office, we will have no hesitation in acting robustly and promptly. That is why, for example, just yesterday my right hon. and learned Friend the Attorney General ensured that an investigation was set up in respect of the findings in the Unaoil case.