Public Bill Committee: Criminal Finances Bill: Examination of Witnesses

Mike Wood: This question is directed in particular to Mr Thompson. Could you tell us more about the challenges faced by the Serious Fraud Office in investigating a suspected criminal financial activity, and how the specific measures in the Bill will help you to do that more effectively? In particular, I would like to know more about how unexplained wealth orders might be expected to help in pursuing foreign officials suspected of grand corruption.

 

Mark Thompson: Members of the SFO and I have been involved in consulting with the Home Office as this process has developed. Unexplained wealth orders provide an avenue for us to start civil recovery investigations effectively in a way that we cannot do at a moment. Where information is held abroad, or is in jurisdictions where co-operation is unlikely, this tool provides us with a way of kicking the process off and taking action against property in the UK that we suspect to be derived from crime. As things currently stand, the thresholds for pursuing civil recovery are, in many cases, high enough to make this difficult. That is how I would see our using the legislation in the first instance.