U.K. Fraud Office Has Room to Improve, Report Says

(Corrects source of report to HM Crown Prosecution Service Inspectorate in story originally published November 20.)

The U.K.’s Serious Fraud Office has “clear room for improvement” in its results, staff and training, a report by HM Crown Prosecution Service Inspectorate said.

The organization has suffered some “setbacks” including its handling of cases involving fuel-additives maker Innospec Inc. and property investors the Tchenguiz brothers, although it is generally regarded as “capable,” the report said.

“Much needs to be addressed if the SFO is to become a respected crime-fighting organization which is the envy of the world,” Michael Fuller, chief inspector of HMCPSI, said in his report to Attorney General Dominic Grieve, released in London today. “The new director recognizes this and is fully committed to driving improvement.”

SFO Director David Green brought in new staff and managers when he replaced Richard Alderman in April. Under Alderman, the SFO was criticized for taking on several high-profile cases, including probes into American International Group Inc.’s Financial Products unit and Bernard Madoff’s London operations, only to close them later citing a lack of evidence. Green has shut down probes into U.K. property tycoons Robert and Vincent Tchenguiz and the failure of Iceland’s Kaupthing hf.

A judge also chided the SFO for entering into a joint plea bargain agreement in 2010 with Innospec for paying bribes overseas.

Libor Probe

The SFO is currently investigating attempts to manipulate the London interbank offered rate and similar benchmarks; claims of bribery at a European Aeronautic, Defence & Space Co. unit in Britain, Barclays Plc and an Alstom SA unit; and the collapse of the hedge fund Weavering Capital (U.K.) Ltd.

Today’s report makes eight recommendations for the SFO including updating its intelligence gathering, ensuring its workers are adequately resourced, standardizing its record- keeping and updating its disclosure guidance. The organization should also design a “transparent process” to pursue civil recovery and implement intensive training programs for casework staff, it said.

“While there are clearly problems to address, I am encouraged that the inspection team also found that the SFO does many things well and that the direction in which the SFO is now headed is the right one,” Grieve said in an e-mailed statement.

To contact the reporter on this story: Kitty Donaldson in London at kdonaldson1@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: James Hertling at jhertling@bloomberg.net

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