U.K. SFO Whistle-Blower Calls Rarely Lead to Cases, Report Says

The U.K. Serious Fraud Office opened a dozen new investigations last year even after receiving thousands of whistle-blower calls, raising concern the prosecutor’s resources are inadequate, according to a report.

The SFO received 2,508 reports of suspected fraud through its whistle-blower service in the year through June, according to data compiled by London-based law firm Pinsent Masons LLP. The watchdog started 12 new probes in the year to March 31, 2014. Not all investigations are initiated by whistle-blowers.

“It’s possible that very large numbers of credible cases could effectively be being shelved,” said Barry Vitou, a lawyer at Pinsent Masons. “Funding problems mean it is unlikely that the SFO is able to carry out comprehensive checks on all information received.”

A number of high-profile SFO investigations have been triggered by whistle-blowers, including probes of lending arrangements between Barclays Plc and Qatar, and alleged bribery and corruption at Rolls Royce Holdings Plc, according to the report. The SFO can ask for “blockbuster funding” from the Treasury for large cases and has received additional money for both these investigations.

The SFO “values information from whistle-blowers and all reports are assessed by our intelligence unit,” the SFO said a statement. “Inevitably, however, few of these contain material which would form the basis of an SFO investigation.”

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