What does the SFO investigate?

The Serious Fraud Office investigates serious or complex fraud. Our priorities lie with cases where:

  • There are multiple victims (usually investors) of the suspected fraud
  • Those allegedly involved are in important positions of trust
  • The alleged criminal transactions have significant legal or financial complexity beyond the resources of most other law enforcement agencies
  • There are allegations of bribery and corruption.

In the case of bribery or corruption matters, we focus on crimes involving public officials, which could undermine public confidence in the administration of laws.
We do not become involved in matters of tax evasion, identity fraud or civil disputes.

Do I need to be a victim to make a complaint?

No, anyone is able to make a complaint to the Serious Fraud Office.

Can someone else report a financial crime for me?

We prefer you to report the crime directly because you know the full details of the alleged offence. However, we understand there are certain circumstances, such as distress or personal safety, where reporting the crime yourself can be very difficult. In these circumstances you can report a crime through a trusted friend, family member or professional adviser.

How much information do I need to make a complaint?

A complaint can initially be made without supporting documents. But documentation will be required before the matter can be formally assessed. If you have a suspicion a fraud may have been committed, you are welcome to submit it to us. (Further guidance can be provided at that stage.)

How do I make a fraud complaint to the SFO?

For information on how to report a fraud to the Serious Fraud Office click here.

Will anyone else be told that I am the complainant?

No. All complaints are treated in complete confidence during an initial investigation. However if the matter proceeds to a prosecution, it may be necessary for you to give evidence as a witness.

Can the SFO help me get my money back?

No. The recovery of losses is a civil matter. We only conduct criminal investigations and prosecutions. You would need to seek advice from an appropriately qualified and experienced legal practitioner to consider civil recovery.

How long does an SFO investigation take?

Because the matters we investigate are very complex, often with many thousands of documents to examine, an investigation usually takes many months.

How is a Court date decided?

The prosecutor and the defence lawyer will tell the Court how long they think the trial will take, and how many witnesses will have to give evidence. If the case is long and complicated, it may not be possible to list it for trial at that hearing, because more work has to be done. If this is the case it will be listed for trial at a later court hearing, once everyone is ready to proceed.

The Court will then endeavour to fix a date for trial that is convenient for all witnesses, although this may not be always possible especially if it will result in a long delay to the trial date.

Are there hearings before a case gets to trial?

There may be a number of hearings to deal with legal issues before the trial begins. These hearings could relate to the admissibility of evidence, name suppression or other issues to do with the trial.

Generally speaking, more complicated cases will take longer to get to trial. These will also require more hearings beforehand, because the prosecution and defence have more preparation to do. It is unlikely that you will have to attend these hearings. But if you are required, you will be notified in advance.

Can I claim expenses for attending Court?

The SFO will provide you with a Ministry of Justice expense claim form.

This sets out what you can claim for, including expenses for travel (if we have not arranged this for you).

How long does a trial go on for?

There are many things that influence the length of a trial so it’s impossible to say. The majority of SFO cases are large and complex and involve many witnesses, meaning the trial may go on for weeks. If the case continues for weeks or months, you won’t be expected to attend Court for the entire period. (You will normally only have to attend court on the day that you have to give evidence.)

How do I find out about a verdict in an SFO case?

If you are directly involved in a case, then the SFO will inform you of the verdict.

What influences a sentence handed down?

On sentencing, a judge will take into consideration the age of the defendant, their background and criminal history, whether or not they pleaded guilty, whether they have paid any reparation and whether they have shown any remorse.

Aggravating factors such as the impact on victims, the duration of the offending, level of trust that has been abused and continuation of offending during the investigation on prosecution can also be taken into account.

Can a defendant appeal against the verdict?

An offender can appeal against the sentence or conviction or both. If the defendant is convicted and appeals the conviction, the entire trial may need to be heard again, meaning you may have to give your evidence again. If it is only the sentence in dispute, a judge may consider the appeal and decide whether to change the sentence or not.