Our Purpose & Role

The Serious Fraud Office (SFO) is a small, highly specialised government department responsible for complex or serious fraud investigations and prosecutions. This doesn’t include more common dishonesty offences, which are a Police matter.

Both investors and the general public need to be assured that high-level fraud will not be tolerated. To this end, we have a range of mechanisms in place to actively monitor, investigate and prosecute within the corporate environment, so that fraud does not go undetected or unpunished.

Priority cases for the SFO include:

  • Multi-victim investment fraud
  • Fraud involving those in important positions of trust (e.g. lawyers)
  • Matters of bribery and corruption
  • Any other case that could significantly damage New Zealand’s reputation for fair and free  financial markets minus corruption.

This focus is consistent with the Government’s strategic objectives to encourage a progressive, internationally competitive enterprise economy, and, build an economically strong, cohesive New Zealand.

How the SFO operates

The Government minister responsible for the SFO is the Minister of Police. However, under the Serious Fraud Office Act 1990, the Director of the SFO has complete independence when it comes to operational decisions.

Our investigations are carried out under the statutory powers of the SFO Act. Part I and Part II outline the different circumstances under which we operate. Broadly speaking, the detection of serious fraud is carried out under Part I, while investigations into identified instances of possible fraud are carried out under Part II. 

Allegations of fraud made to the Serious Fraud Office are first assessed by the Fraud Detection & Intelligence Unit. Preliminary work is undertaken on all complaints to produce a recommendation for action to the Director. If the matter is one for a different enforcement or regulatory agency, the Unit will refer the matter to that agency. 

When a substantive investigation (under Part II) is commenced, the matter is dealt with by one of two investigation units:

• Financial Markets & Corporate Fraud (FM&CF)
• Fraud & Corruption (F&C).

Each of these units includes experienced financial investigators, forensic accountants and investigating lawyers, who perform under the guidance of a general manager. The team assigned to a particular investigation will vary according to the circumstances of each case, but these usually involve at least one member from each of the three disciplines.