Blunders in fraud investigation
Aug 02, 2012
The Serious Fraud Office’s (SFO) investigation of property investor Robert Tchenguiz hit a new obstacle after the High Court ruled that the search warrants used to raid his properties in 2011 were unlawful. Lord Justice Thomas said that the evidence presented by the agency to obtain the warrants as part of its investigation into the Tchenguiz brothers’ role in the collapse of Icelandic bank Kaupthing was “unfair and inaccurate”. However, the judge also stressed that the SFO needed more funding, stating that “incalculable damage” would be done to London’s financial markets if “proper resources… were not made available”.
What the commentators said:
The judge was “not as critical of the Serious Fraud Office as might have been expected”, said Simon Bowers in The Guardian, however, the findings are “truly damning”. Revelations that the raids on Robert Tchenguiz, in addition to his brother Vincent, were also flawed are “another blow”. These days, the SFO is in the dock “more often than the miscreants it is supposed to be prosecuting”, said Damian Reece on Telegraph.co.uk. The SFO’s failings were “down to incompetence rather than money”. To cut crime, we “need to change the culture” of the financial world. Nothing will change bankers’ behaviour more quickly than the “certain knowledge that they will go to prison when caught”.
In the SFO’s “too-long roster of… boo-boos”, this judgement could be “its most embarrassing”, said Robert Peston on BBC.co.uk. Its budget could be squeezed further if it has to pay the Tchenguiz’s defence costs. Last year Home Secretary Theresa May tried to close it. Perhaps she will now “put it out of its misery”.
FREE - MoneyWeek's daily investment email
Our free daily email, Money Morning, is an informative and enjoyable analysis of what's going on in the markets. Written by our Editor, John Stepek, and guest contributors.
Sign up FREE to Money Morning here.