HC Deb 08 March 2004 vol 418 cc1340-1W
Malcolm Bruce

To ask the Solicitor-General (1) if she will make a statement on Serious Fraud Office investigations into bribery of a foreign public official since 1997 under(a) the UK's corruption laws and (b) the Anti-Terrorism, Crime and Security Act 2001; [158305]

(2) what the Serious Fraud Office's operational policy is on investigating allegations of bribery of a foreign public official which took place prior to the Anti-Terrorism, Crime and Security Act 2001 where an element of the offence may have occurred within the UK prior to February 2002. [158306]

The Solicitor-General

The purpose of the SFO is to investigate and prosecute suspected offences of serious or complex fraud that meet the published acceptance criteria agreed by Ministers. The SFO does not have separate operational policies relating to each offence that it can prosecute, nor does the SFO prioritise by reference to specific offences.

After a case has been accepted and the investigation has advanced, the SFO must then consider which offence/offences are the most appropriate to prosecute.

The facts of a case may give rise to a number of possible offences including for example conspiracy to defraud, theft, fraudulent trading as well as corruption. If a prosecution is justified by the evidence and public interest then the charge selected will be the one that best represents the conduct of the individuals charged.

A referral that includes bribery of a foreign official that took place prior to February 2002 would be assessed on the same basis as every other referral and this basis is outlined above.

The SFO has one investigation where bribery of a foreign official represents an element of the overall case. It is not known at present whether it will be appropriate to prosecute this element.