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Serious Fraud Office outlines five-year strategy amid ‘increasing pace of change’

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By Jeff Dale, 29 April 2024

The UK’s Serious Fraud Office (SFO) said in a five-year strategic plan it’s ‘struggled to keep pace with demand’ as ballooning casework shows no signs of slowing down.

The SFO Strategy 2024-29,[1] published earlier this month, outlined how the UK prosecutor will thwart financial crime, fraud, and corruption as it faces new challenges from the ‘increasing pace of change and technological innovation.’

‘The SFO needs to be seen as a strong, dynamic, confident, and pragmatic organisation,’ Nick Ephgrave, SFO Director, said in the strategy. ‘…[T]his means ensuring that SFO cases progress at a faster rate’ and that the agency be a ‘partner of choice domestically and internationally.’

Specific vulnerabilities include crypto assets enabling money laundering and artificial intelligence (AI)-generated audio and visuals, the strategy stated.

While technological advancements heighten risk, the SFO said they also present ‘opportunities for investigators and prosecutors in the fight against crime.’

‘[T]echnology can make it easier to review evidence, contact witnesses, and support victims,’ the strategy stated. ‘We must rethink our existing approach to casework and find ways to support our expert staff in the work which only they can do: unravelling the complexity of financial crime and bringing successful prosecutions.’

Focus areas

Specific goals for the prosecutor include strengthening its ability to monitor and forecast developments in technology, exploring incentivisation options for whistleblowers, streamlining casework through machine learning and AI, anticipating changing needs by updating its technology roadmap, and developing core digital skills across all SFO roles.

In February, Ephgrave signalled his support [2] for adopting a whistleblower reward programme. The strategy noted plans to ‘identify and develop opportunities to maximise covert capabilities’ and improve the agency’s ‘ability to make use of assisting offenders.’

The SFO also plans to strengthen its operations through the deployment of criminal overseas production orders, giving it better access to cross-border data when pursuing cases. New powers, like the failure to prevent fraud offence, could allow the prosecutor to make organisations criminally liable if they failed to prevent fraud by an associated person.



This article has been republished with permission from Compliance Week, a US-based information service on corporate governance, risk, and compliance. Compliance Week is a sister company to the International Compliance Association. Both organisations are under the umbrella of Wilmington plc. To read more visit