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Half a million documents later: SFO drops forex investigation due to lack of evidence

The Serious Fraud Office (SFO) has dropped its investigation into allegations of rigging in the foreign exchange (forex) market after it found insufficient evidence to prosecute.

SFO director David Green QC announced today (15 March) that following a ‘thorough and independent investigation lasting over one and a half years and involving in excess of half a million documents’, the probe has been dropped.

The investigation opened in July 2014 after the SFO stepped up its criminal investigation of traders rigging the £3 trillion-a-day foreign exchange market, after the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) flagged that the banks allegedly rigged the forex market.

A statement issued by the SFO said: ‘The SFO has concluded, based on the information and material we have obtained, that there is insufficient evidence for a realistic prospect of conviction.

It added: ‘Whilst there were reasonable grounds to suspect the commission of offences involving serious or complex fraud, a detailed review of the available evidence led us to the conclusion that the alleged conduct, even if proven and taken at its highest, would not meet the evidential test required to mount a prosecution for an offence contrary to English law. It has further been concluded that this evidential position could not be remedied by continuing the investigation.’

The SFO continues to liaise with the US Department of Justice over its ongoing investigation.

The fraud agency, which recently extended Green’s contract for another two years, made another plea for cash at the start of this year, on top of its core funding budget for 2015-16 of £33.8m. Prosecutors at the SFO made another request for cash, seeking an additional £21.1m for ‘blockbuster’ cases, after making a £10m request in June last year. 

RPC partner Richard Burger said: ‘This is of course welcome news for those under investigation, but if the related Department of Justice investigation remains live, as the SFO statement suggests, then this is far from the end of the matter.’

‘He added: ‘The recent acquittals in the Libor trial may have played a factor in the SFO’s recent decision to close the forex investigation, but I doubt it was the deciding factor.’

Subscribers can read more in: ‘The end of the tunnel – litigation and regulatory challenges in financial services’