SFO launches new whistleblowing hotline
LONDON (Reuters) - The Serious Fraud Office (SFO) is encouraging whistleblowers to flush out corporate wrongdoing with a new service designed for company insiders who are not personally victims of fraud or corruption.
The SFO said on Tuesday that individuals with inside knowledge of suspect business practices could call the new "SFO Confidential" hotline or fill in a new online form.
The agency said the new hotline would complement its national fraud reporting service for victims. But it is keen to ensure strong cases are not clogged up in the system.
"Company executives, staff, professional advisors, business associates of various kinds or trade competitors can talk to us in confidence," said SFO Director Richard Alderman.
"I have set up a special team to make the SFO readily accessible to whistleblowers, with trained staff sympathetic in dealing with any anxieties people might have about coming forward."
The SFO, which receives public funds of only around 30 million pounds per year to investigate and prosecute complex fraud, has to rely in part on whistleblowers to successfully prosecute fraud.
The agency, which has been given more teeth with the Bribery Act, promised to protect a whistleblower's identity. However, people could contact it anonymously if preferred, it said.
The Bribery Act, which came into force in July, makes failure to prevent bribery -- whether it is committed by staff, subsidiaries or "associated persons" anywhere in the world -- a criminal offence.
It also clamps down on so-called "facilitation payments" -- often used to oil the wheels of business by speeding up services such as visa applications -- and "disproportionate" hospitality.
(Reporting by Kirstin Ridley; Editing by Greg Mahlich)
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