January 7, 2016 / 6:30 PM / in 5 years

SFO needs 'urgent' fresh cash as top cases mount

LONDON (Reuters) - The Serious Fraud Office has asked the government for an extra 21.14 million pounds to meet urgent cash needs as it pursues some of its most complex investigations, such as an inquiry into alleged financial benchmark rigging.

The SFO, which investigates and prosecutes top drawer and multi-national fraud, bribery and corruption, has now asked the government for a near-doubling of its funding for this financial year after requesting an extra 10 million pounds last June.

The SFO’s biggest and costliest cases have included the investigation into the alleged manipulation of Libor (London interbank offered rate), which to date has yielded one guilty plea and one 14-year sentence, reduced to 11 years on appeal.

Six individuals remain on trial and five others are awaiting trial next month on Libor-related charges.

In an off-shoot of that investigation, 11 former Deutsche Bank, Barclays and Societe Generale bankers resident in seven different countries will on Monday be formally charged with alleged Euribor (Euro interbank offered rate) interest rate rigging offences at London’s Westminster Magistrates’ Court.

The agency does not announce all its investigations. But other inquiries announced more recently include the alleged manipulation of the $5 trillion-per-day foreign exchange market, accounting irregularities at retailer Tesco and an inquiry into the conduct of Bank of England liquidity auctions.

The SFO, which operates on an annual core budget of around 33.8 million pounds, can request “blockbuster funding” if the cost of cases exceeds a percentage of its budget.

“The Director (of the SFO, David Green) has said he is confident that the SFO, with blockbuster funding, has access to sufficient resource to conduct its very challenging and complex work,” the agency said in an emailed statement on Thursday.

Legal experts have criticised a funding method they argue could lead to political interference with cases that can concern influential blue-chip British companies. Its current case load includes inquiries into Barclays, Rolls-Royce and GSK.

The SFO’s Green has said that while the arrangement is not perfect, it “does the job”.

($1 = 0.6853 pounds)

Reporting by Kirstin Ridley; Editing by Elaine Hardcastle

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