‘I know better’ culture at serious fraud firms may be changing, inspector tells lawmakers

The Serious Fraud Office (SFO) had a culture of “know it well” even before the 2018 appointment of its current director, Lisa Ossofsky.

In July of this year, it identified a string of failures at the SFO that led to the collapse of two criminal cases: the Unaoil case, where alleged bribes were paid to Iraqi oil officials, and the Simon Marshall and Nicholas case. Two separate reviews have been published. Woods, a Serco executive acquitted by a judge’s order.

Anthony Rogers, deputy chief inspector of the UK Public Prosecutor’s Office, said the shortcomings noted in these reviews were “unsurprising”.

Mr Rogers told the committee on Wednesday: He thinks he knows him well. There are cultural organizational issues that predate the current director. ”

He said he conducted an SFO inspection in 2018. Ossofsky, a former deputy general counsel and ethics officer at the FBI, had only been on the job for “six weeks.” A new inspection has started.

Rogers said a full inspection report would not be ready until April 2023, but said: But it’s early days. ”

Mr. Osofsky’s own five-year term as SFO Director is due to expire next year, and there has been no word from Attorney General Michael Ellis about an extension.

Rogers said the 2018 inspection also revealed a prevalent culture of “bullying” at SFO, and said he understood Ossofsky was approaching it with the behavior change program.

The committee has previously heard evidence from both Brian Altman, KC, who was asked by Osofsky to review the failures that led to the collapse of the Serco trial, and David Calvert-Smith, KC, who led the review of the Unaoil case. .

Both reviews were highly critical of SFO’s legal discovery procedures. Mr. Altman told the committee that reluctance among staff members volunteering to serve as disclosure officers was evident and that more training and support was needed for them.

Conservative MEPs ask if SFO is ‘fit for purpose’

Conservative MP Laura Faris asked them if they thought the SFO was “fit for purpose”.

Calvert-Smith said it was clear there were “inherent” problems within the organization, but that there was “cautious optimism” that things were starting to change.

Calvert-Smith found that Osofsky made several “mistakes and misunderstandings” in his handling of former Drug Enforcement Administration agent David Tinsley, who acted as a “fixer” for one of the Unaoil defendants.

In the Serco case, Kevin Davis, the lead investigator for the case, alleged that he inadvertently erased data from SFO phones on multiple occasions.

Another member of the committee, Conservative MP Kieren Mullan, asked Calvert-Smith if he thought it was “credible” that the phone had been “accidentally” wiped of data.

Calvert-Smith replied: Based on the evidence we have, no firm conclusions could be reached. ”

Rogers added: Wiping data and asking for phone resets and rebuilds was commonplace… the timing was disappointing. It looks very disappointing, but absolutely not uncommon. It is possible that the lead investigator had access to his IT, as did other members of that organization. This is very difficult to negotiate for security reasons. ”

Later, when Ossowski appeared before the commission, she was optimistic.

She said the SFO had a “notable summer” with the convictions of Caribbean holiday scammer David Ames, ethical investment fraud pair Andrew Skene and Junie Bowers, and the resolution of the Glencore scandal. said to have spent

Osofsky said she “regretted” her decision to meet with Tinsley and hand him over to Una Oil investigators.

“Do you regret that I did it? Absolutely. Do you wish you had done something else? Yes. You can see the impact on our office,” she added.

She said the SFO changed its internal policy in May 2020 to avoid meeting with third parties other than attorneys.

Mr Ossofsky said: We need to be able to hire good disclosure attorneys…we have developed a bespoke advanced training program, we have reactivated our disclosure working group, we have disclosure advocates, we have quarters of our cases Disclosure risk was assessed during each review. ”

Chris Summers


Chris Summers is a UK-based journalist with a wide range of national coverage, with a particular interest in crime, police and law.