Serious Fraud Office

The SFO is a specialist prosecuting authority tackling the top level of serious or complex fraud, bribery and corruption.

The SFO is a specialist prosecuting authority tackling the top level of serious or complex fraud, bribery and corruption.

We are part of the UK criminal justice system covering England, Wales and Northern Ireland, but not Scotland, the Isle of Man or the Channel Islands.

We take on a small number of large economic crime cases. The Director may investigate any suspected offence which appears to her on reasonable grounds to involve serious or complex fraud.

In considering whether to authorise an investigation the Director will take into account the actual or intended harm that may be caused to:

  • the public, or
  • the reputation and integrity of the UK as an international financial centre, or
  • the economy and prosperity of the UK

and whether the complexity and nature of the suspected offence warrants the application of the SFO’s specialist skills, powers and capabilities to investigate and prosecute.

We also pursue criminals for the financial benefit they have made from their crimes and assist overseas jurisdictions with their investigations into serious and complex fraud, bribery and corruption cases. Since 30 September 2017 we have had the power to investigate and prosecute the new offence of corporate failure to prevent the facilitation of overseas tax evasion.

We are unusual in the UK in that we both investigate and prosecute our cases. We were set up this way because these kinds of cases are complicated and lawyers and investigators need to work together from the beginning.

The SFO was created and given its powers under the Criminal Justice Act 1987 and was established in 1988. Read more about our history and powers here.

The SFO is superintended by the Attorney General in accordance with a protocol which sets out the relationship between the Attorney and the Law Officers’ Departments.

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