Former Met Police chief appointed head of UK’s Serious Fraud Office

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A former senior Metropolitan Police chief has been appointed as the brand new head of the UK’s Critical Fraud Workplace at a time when it faces heightened scrutiny over a collection of failed prosecutions.

Nick Ephgrave, who was assistant commissioner of the Metropolitan Police in control of frontline policing between 2019 and 2022, will take over as SFO director in September when Lisa Osofsky, a twin US-UK citizen, steps down, the attorney-general’s workplace introduced on Wednesday.

He served with the Met for many of his 32-year policing profession, which included a six-year spell at Surrey Police, the place he was promoted to chief constable in 2015.

Earlier this 12 months, the Met was the topic of a damning evaluation by Baroness Louise Casey, who really useful that the UK’s largest police pressure needs to be damaged up if it couldn’t repair quite a few critical failings

Jonathan Pickworth, head of the London investigations and white collar defence observe at legislation agency Paul Hastings, mentioned Ephgrave was a “good appointment”, including: “The SFO is at all-time low and must rediscover its objective,” he mentioned.

Ephgrave mentioned he was “honoured” to take over on the prime of the company. “I sit up for constructing on its current successes and driving ahead work to ship long-lasting enhancements to its operations.”

Ephgrave’s appointment brings to an finish a blended tenure for Osofsky who has seen some successes below her watch but additionally some excessive profile failures at an company that has struggled with a restricted price range and resourcing points, together with the retention of attorneys and IT consultants.

Underneath Osofsky, the company secured quite a few excessive profile deferred prosecution agreements with firms to carry prison prosecutions to an finish. These included a report €991mn company settlement in 2020 with Airbus to settle a joint corruption probe with France and the US.

Following an SFO probe, Glencore Power UK was ordered to pay £276.4mn final 12 months by a court docket after it admitted seven counts of bribery between 2011 and 2016.

Osofsky’s tenure was marred by quite a few controversies, notably failings within the SFO’s disclosure processes, which led to a number of prison trials being deserted. Disclosure is a crucial concern in white collar crime prosecutions, which rely closely on documentary proof, and antiquated guidelines have made it more durable to take care of the rising variety of digital communications, corresponding to emails.

In March, the SFO deserted a prison prosecution of three former executives at G4S, the safety firm, who had been accused of defrauding the federal government over a prisoner-tagging contract, attributable to disclosure issues nearly a decade after the case started.

In 2021, the SFO additionally oversaw the collapse of one other trial associated to prisoner tagging towards two former Serco executives collapse after the company failed at hand key paperwork to the defence groups.

“The instant problem for the brand new director might be to make sure that disclosure ceases being an albatross across the SFO’s neck,” mentioned Neil Swift, associate at legislation agency Peters & Peters.

Different controversies on Osofsky’s watch included the SFO’s probe into Unaoil, the vitality consultancy, which prompted then attorney-general Suella Braverman to launch an impartial inquiry that discovered “basic failures” on the company. The courts in the end quashed convictions of three defendants within the Unaoil case.

Ephgrave’s police background differentiates him from current incumbents on the prime of the SFO.

“The final two administrators have been attorneys with prosecutorial backgrounds. As a police officer, one imagines that Ephgrave’s principal expertise will lie within the investigation of offences, quite than taking them by way of the courts,” mentioned David Rundle, white collar associate at legislation agency BCLP.

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