What is Serious Fraud Office (SFO)?

Established in 1987, the Serious Fraud Office is a specialist prosecuting authority dealing with the highest level of severe or sophisticated fraud, bribery, and corruption. Covering England, Wales, and Northern Ireland, the Bureau is part of the UK criminal justice system. It does not include Scotland, the Isle of Man, or the Channel Islands.

The Bureau considers protecting the reputation and integrity of the public or the UK as an international financial center. It tracks financial gains from financial crimes. The SFO's job is to pursue serious fraud, bribery, and corruption cases.

The formation of the unit began with a series of financial scandals in London in the early 1980s. The rise of severe and sophisticated scams has shaken public confidence. In response, the government established the Fraud Cases Committee in 1983.

SFO tracks down criminals for financial gain from crimes and assists overseas jurisdictions in investigations into cases. Since 2017, they have the power to investigate and prosecute the new crime of corporate failure to block the facilitation of overseas tax evasion. Supported by additional funds from the Treasury Reserve, the SFO has a core budget.

SFO operates with other law enforcement partners to address the challenges faced by serious and arranged crime in line with the Government's Serious and Organized Crime Strategy. Some of those;

  • The National Crime Agency's Economic Crime Command, International Corruption Unit, and Bribery and Corruption Intelligence Unit
  • The City of London Police, including its Economic Crime Directorate, Action Fraud, and the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau
  • UK police forces and Regional Organized Crime Units, Regional Asset Recovery Teams and Regional Fraud Teams
  • HM Revenue & Customs
  • The Financial Conduct Authority

The SFO also collaborates with UK Government departments, including our oversight department, the Attorney General's Office, Home Office and Department of Justice, and overseas partners such as the US Department of Justice on matters of common interest. The SFO associate in Project Bloom is a multi-agency operation to combat scams where people are encouraged to move or cash in their pension pots at significant financial risk or loss.

The SFO has about 60 live criminal cases under investigation and before the courts at any given time. They are usually:

  • Involve activity in many nations
  • Involve alleged criminals who go to great lengths to hide their activity and the money they make from it
  • Require analysis of enormous quantities of information
  • Take longer than standard criminal cases to investigate and prosecute

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