Revealed: Serious Fraud Office earns taxpayers £517 million in 12 months

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The Serious Fraud Office earned taxpayers more than £1 million for each of its employees last year after a record run of success, figures have revealed.

The statistics show that £516.8 million was paid into Treasury coffers by the SFO during the 12 months up to the end of the financial year in early April.

That equates to just over £1 million for each of its 500 staff. This year’s revenue also equates to more than the SFO’s total running costs of £473 million for the past decade and means that it has become one of the Government’s most successful earners. 

The figures, drawn from an analysis of data in the SFO’s annual reports, will heighten the debate about the organisation’s future and bolster arguments in favour of its survival. Theresa May had said in the Tory election manifesto that she wanted to abolish it as a separate organisation and hand its functions to the National Crime Agency.

However, senior Conservative MPs, including the former attorney general Dominic Grieve and the chairman of the Commons Justice Select Committee, Bob Neill, have voiced opposition. There was no mention of the idea in the Queen’s Speech this summer.

Most of the money earned by the SFO during the past financial year came in a “deferred prosecution agreement” struck with Rolls-Royce in January. The deal, under which Rolls-Royce agreed to pay £497.25 million, followed a four-year investigation into corruption and bribery involving the company in Indonesia, Thailand, India, Russia, Nigeria, China and Malaysia over 30 years.

The earnings last year compare favourably with the £54.6 million cost of running the SFO for the 12-month period. The £516.8 million total also outstrips the £473.2 million operating bill for the organisation over the past 10 years.

In its annual report, the SFO said it had “remained sharply focused on reducing the harm caused by high-level economic crime and preserving the reputation of the UK as a safe place to do business… we remain uniquely well-placed to investigate and prosecute the top-tier of serious and complex economic crime and our operating model underpins our success”.

This year’s figure of £516.8 million does not include money recovered by the SFO from confiscation orders imposed upon convicted fraudsters. 

Nor does it include the £129 million fine paid by Tesco under the terms of another deferred prosecution agreement agreed in April over allegations of false accounting by the retailer. That income will be included in next year’s SFO accounts.

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