POLITICS

Cuts Crippling City Police's Ability To Tackle Financial Crime

15/09/2014 16:07 BST | Updated 15/09/2014 16:59 BST
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Budget cuts are making it much harder for the police to tackle the rise in white-collar crime, new figures show.

Figures compiled by the City law firm Pinsent Masons found that reports of financial crime have doubled to more than 230,000 in the last year, while the number of investigations launched has increased by 5% to just 544.

The number of investigations launched is a marked decrease from previous years, as police looked into 792 allegations of financial crime back in 2011-2012.

This led the law firm to conclude that the City of London police and Serious Fraud Office were “in need of a sustainable level of funding to ensure that they could operate as effectively as possible to stop fraudulent activity.”

City of London police have been forced to cut annual spending by 10% to around £90 million by 2015, with £6.6 million slashed from annual spending in the last two years and a further £3 million cut by March 2015.

This means that City police have a limited ability to "proactively investigate potential leads" so they are forced to rely on tip-offs, whistleblowers and corporate self-reporting.

Barry Vitou, partner at Pinsent Masons, told the Times: "The SFO only investigates frauds that fulfill its strict criteria — this means the work of the City of London police remains critical in investigating and prosecuting fraud."

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Serious Fraud Office 'Failing To Perform' After Acting On Just 3 of 5,600 Tip-Offs

Serious Fraud Office Whistleblowing Calls Spark No Investigations

This comes after the Huffington Post UK revealed that the Serious Fraud Office had acted on just three out of nearly 5,600 tip-offs it has received.

With the City of London tackling scandals such as the fixing of the interbank lending rate Libor, the Serious Fraud Office admitted that they have not launched a single formal investigation as a result of the 5,582 tips it has received since its confidential whistleblowing service was set up in November 2011.

The SFO said it had only followed up three cases for consideration in a future investigation, in response to a Freedom of Information Request from HuffPostUK.

Tory MP Steve Barclay, member of the Public Accounts Committee said in response: “It is unacceptable that the SFO has followed up as few as 3 cases out a potential 5,500 from its tip-off service. This is letting down those who come forward with information, and also the taxpayer who is funding a body that is failing to perform as it should."

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"The idea behind a confidential tip-off line is to target the action of the SFO on the fraudulent use of tax payers’ money. Once again there are now serious questions as to whether the SFO is delivering value for money to the tax payer. "

"The SFO should certainly be looking into its handling procedure for reports of fraudulent activity and should ensure that each tip-off is given serious consideration rather than being dismissed as it seems to have been in recent years.”