New Zealand Law Society - Huge increase in complaints for SFO but few prosecutions

Huge increase in complaints for SFO but few prosecutions

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The Serious Fraud Office has had a 100% increase in the number of complaints it has received over the past four years.

The SFO’s annual report shows the number of complaints for the 2018-19 year was 1,138, its highest ever – and substantially up from the 536 received in 2014-15.

Of those, however, only 18 became Part 1 enquiries to determine whether the allegation should progress to a full investigation (Part 2). There were seven prosecutions, down from nine in the previous financial year. The report notes that the combined total of fraud alleged in prosecutions was $161 million.

In her foreward to the report, SFO Director Julie read says law enforcement agencies globally are reporting a rise in the complexity of the fraud and corruption cases they investigate as new technologies are increasingly used to conduct crime.

She warns of the impact that is having and will continue to have on New Zealand.

“New Zealand’s relative isolation, in geographic terms, no longer offers the protection it once did against serious financial crime,” she says.

“The technologies that allow us to communicate instantly, to talk to friends, access bank accounts or buy goods anywhere in the world, also facilitate fraud and corruption. Changes to our national demographics and in our international trade partners also increase the risks of serious financial crime being perpetrated in New Zealand.

“In the face of these risks, the SFO has placed an increased focus on leading in the sharing of financial crime intelligence to identify and prevent threats. At the international level, we do this through various fora, including the Economic Crime Agencies Network, the International Anti-Corruption Coordination Centre and the International Public Sector Fraud Forum. We also work directly with overseas law enforcement agencies.”

As part of this the SFO and the Ministry of Justice lead the Anti-Corruption Work Programme, which was approved by Cabinet in July 2018.