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‘Not unexpected’: SFO asks for extra funds for fourth time in as many years

Prosecutors at the SFO have made another request for cash, seeking an additional £21.1m for ‘blockbuster’ cases, after making a £10m request in June last year. The SFO’s core funding budget for 2015-16 is £33.8m.

Solicitor-general Robert Buckland informed parliament yesterday (7 January) the agency was seeking approval for £15.5m of the £21.1m to be delivered urgently ‘to cover the cost of significant investigations and the settlement of material liabilities’.

‘The advance is required to meet an urgent cash requirement on existing services pending Parliamentary approval of the 2015-16 supplementary estimate’, Buckland said in a letter to the house.

Since 2009 the agency’s funding has hovered around the £33m mark but it can request a top up for important cases, which it has done every year since 2012.

In the past two years, the agency got almost as much as it receives in core funding in extra funding, receiving £24.5m for the year 2014-15 and £24.5m for the year before that.

Late last year the SFO said it would prosecute Deutsche Bank and Barclays staff involved in Euribor rigging. The move follows its successful prosecution of Libor trader Tom Hayes whose appeal to the Court of Appeal was refused late last year, although his sentence was reduced from 14 to 11 years.

Other major investigations this year include a probe into Tesco’s accounting practices, on which Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer is advising the supermarket, and its probe into Rolls-Royce. The aerospace giant has instructed Slaughter and May to lead its defence over alleged bribes paid in Asia.

According to the SFO’s most recent annual report, last year the agency opened 16 new investigations compared to 12 the year before, while the number of defendants convicted increased from 11 to 18, a 78% conviction rate.

Stephenson Harwood partner Tony Woodcock said it was unfortunate the agency had to continue to ask for money when it could just be given a bigger budget.

‘The request is not unexpected and it’s a shame that they have to operate in this way and there isn’t an earlier realisation that these cases cost money, take a lot of time and are complex. There has to be resources readily available without the asking.’

For more on the SFO and other agencies see: ‘The end of the tunnel – litigation and regulatory challenges in financial services’