New SFO chief turns to lawyers for help tackling crime

Osofsky: Reaching out to lawyers

The new director of the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) is to call on the legal sector’s “expertise” to help in the fight against crime.

In a first speech in the post, Lisa Osofsky also talked about plans to use machine learning and AI-based technology in the SFO’s investigations.

Speaking at the annual Cambridge International Symposium on Economic Crime yesterday, the one-time deputy general counsel of the FBI highlighted her focus on increasing co-operation with international and national law enforcement bodies, regulators, non-governmental organisations and the private sector.

She said: “I was a money laundering risk officer at Goldman Sachs International when the Proceeds of Crime Act first came into force and have seen the professionalisation of compliance over the past 15 years, which continues to be a growing industry in the regulated sector.

“I worked first hand with compliance officers while at Exiger and Control Risks. I saw the developing skill set and witnessed the growth in areas of responsibility that has led to development of intel and proactive work to ensure the financial institutions and companies they help manage do not violate the law in areas like money laundering, sanctions, corruption and fraud.

“I aim to leverage the information they hold to help us in law enforcement build strong cases.

“I also want to utilise the legal sector’s expertise. Lawyers, solicitors and barristers have a lot to offer in fighting crime and I intend to reach out to seek their input and ideas. The same is true for academics – I want to make use of new ideas and approaches that are out there.”

Ms Osofsky said she would also focus on the SFO’s “strategic use of cutting-edge technology”.

She explained: “Our cases are some of the most complex and data-heavy criminal investigations in any jurisdiction. There were 30 million documents in our investigation into Rolls Royce, which was our largest case at the time.

We now have one with over 65 million, and there’s another in the pipeline which will have more than 100 million. To put that in perspective, the Panama Papers leak was only 10.5 million – and that would count as an average sized investigation for the SFO.

“As a law enforcement body we absolutely have to work at pace and technology can help us do that, as well as save money particularly in relation to document reviews.”

The SFO has made headlines by using an AI robot to help check for legal professional privileged material in the Rolls Royce case, which led to savings of 80% in the area that it was used, she noted.

“With the new eDiscovery platform we’re starting to use across all of our new cases, we’ll soon bring a range of machine learning and AI-based technology assisted review features to our investigations; these build on the success of the LPP robot.

“This should create even greater efficiencies, and potentially help us reach charging decisions sooner, and shorten the time it takes to progress to trial.

“These technologies are used more commonly in civil cases, but we see them as essential, so we’re developing processes that will allow us to use them in our cases while still complying with criminal disclosure rules.”

Meanwhile, the Solicitors Regulation Authority has urged solicitors to check the HM Treasury frozen assets review to make sure they are not holding monies belonging to a client subject to financial sanctions.

The Treasury launched its annual frozen assets review yesterday; anyone who is holding frozen assets has until Friday 12 October 2018 to submit a report to the Office of Financial Sanctions Implementation (OFSI).

The authority’s executive director Crispin Passmore said: “Solicitors are rightly being asked to make sure they are not helping anyone with dubious funding streams – becoming ‘professional enablers’.

“This risk exists for every single solicitor and law firm, whether conveyancing on the high street or handling global transactions.

“We would urge all of you to look at the review and, if a client is listed and you hold any of their assets, make a report as necessary.”

The OFSI website can be found here. The Treasury has provided an example of what the annual review involves, which can be found here. More information on financial sanctions can be found in OFSI’s guide. Anyone who submitted a report last year and no longer hold the assets will need to submit a ‘nil return’.

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