Thursday, 1 October 2009

The BAE Bribery case - a chance for the SFO to redeem itself?

Today the UK's Serious Fraud Office, which has powers to investigate and prosecute serious frauds involving over £1m announced that it would ask the SFO to prosecute BAE Systems, the UK's leading defence equipment manufacturer, which is accused of bribing government officials in Tanzania, the Czech Republic, Romania and South Africa to secure contracts. These allegations run over a long time period, and follow an earlier case dropped by the SFO into alleged bribery by BAE over a deal with Saudi Arabia.

The SFO has generally struggled to secure prosecutions since its creation as a specialist agency to deal with corporate fraud in 1988. The SFO was created following a string of high profile frauds that the Police and the Crown Prosecution Service were unable to successfully bring prosecutions over. It was thought that a specialist agency employing lawyers and forensic accountants would be better placed to deal with the complexity of fraud cases, which often involve a high degree of specialist financial knowledge. However, the agency has proved so unsuccessful in this aim that last year its role was openly challenged by lawyers representing a group of drug companies accused of fixing prices against the National Health Service. The case was thrown out of court after the SFO failed to prove its case despite carrying out an 8 year long investigation, costing taxpayers £25m. Such actions are never cheap, but one can only hope that in this instance the SFO is more successful than it has been in the past if the body is to prove its worth at dealing with corporate fraud.

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About Me

London, United Kingdom
I'm Lecturer in Management at The York Management School, at The University of York, UK. I teach strategic management to undergraduate and masters students, as well as running the masters dissertation module. My research focuses on business and management history.