Joel Muckett 3 Nov 2017 01:45pm

SFO's frozen asset orders double

The number of times that fraud suspects have had their assets frozen by the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) has doubled in a year

The SFO has imposed eight ‘restraint orders’ over the 2016/17 year, which allow it to freeze and confiscate assets believed to be associated with fraudulent activity such as money laundering, according to International law firm Pinsent Masons.

It credited the increase to the SFO being “more proactive” in preventing criminals from liquidating and hiding their assets and explained that victims’ chances of being compensated improve when the suspects’ assets are frozen.

Five times more compensation orders have been used in past the year than in 2015/16, with the SFO taking funds from white-collar criminals to compensate victims on 10 cases.

Despite this increase, fraud offences have risen by 4% in the past year, with prosecutions falling by 12%.

Pinsent Masons stated that authorities are not responding to reported fraud fast enough and linked this to budget cuts to authorities such as the National Crime Agency.

“As the SFO increasingly focuses on large-scale frauds, a growing number of frauds, outside their remit, are not being addressed,” said Pinsent Masons partner Alan Sheeley.

“When combatting fraud, it is vital that authorities react quickly to pursue the money at the centre of the case.”

Sheeley stressed that it was essential for law enforcement bodies to receive adequate funding and resources to carry out investigations.

Earlier this year, the Cabinet Office announced that the SFO, in addition to HMRC and the Financial Conduxt Authority, was under review.

In the run-up to the General Election, Theresa May floated the idea of scrapping the SFO, which drew criticism from legal experts.