Tuesday, April 23, 2024

Serious Fraud Office reviews cases after software problems - Our No Longer Free Press

The reality is there are no pots of gold that can be easily harvested off the beaches of far-flung tax havens,” Grassley said.

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Or delivery man or postman: 

APRIL 19, 2024. The United States Government Accountability Office (GAO) has released a first of its kind report on annual financial losses to the government due to fraud and the numbers are astounding. 

The GAO estimated that the federal government loses between $233 billion and $521 billion every year, based on data from fiscal year 2018 to 2022. These estimates are based on data from three main sources: investigative data – the number of cases prosecuted, and money recovered from those cases – Office of Inspector General (OIG) reports and confirmed accounts of fraudulent activity reported to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB). GAO ran these data sets through well-established probabilistic methods and models to create the estimate range, accounting for different scenarios and situations involving uncertainty.

The UK Serious Fraud Office has launched a review of its past and present cases after uncovering problems with crucial software used in evidence disclosure, marking the latest blow to the troubled prosecutor. The agency opened the review after an internal memo in February flagged problems with the disclosure tool during its investigation into London Mining, according to two people familiar with the matter.

In a statement on Friday the SFO said it was informing defendants in all affected cases about the issue, which affected its ability to search for relevant terms in evidence, but that it had identified a fix for the problem. “We have deployed an effective solution to address an identified issue affecting some searches on our current e-discovery software and are disclosing the issue to defendants on relevant cases in line with our duties as a responsible prosecutor,” the SFO said in a statement. But according to the people familiar with the situation, issues with an older disclosure tool have forced the agency to review historic cases as well, raising the prospect of past convictions being subject to challenge. The revelation marks an escalation of the agency’s problems with disclosure, a crucial aspect of criminal procedure that demands the prosecution hand to the defence any 

“The prosecution’s compliance with its duty of disclosure is a fundamental part of the right to a fair trial,” said Neil Swift, a white-collar crime lawyer at Peters & Peters. “It is of critical importance that the means used to interrogate electronic material is properly understood by the prosecution.” The new issue relates to OpenText Axcelerate, a software provider the SFO started using in 2018, including in its current probe into London Mining. However, the SFO is also reviewing cases that used a tool from its old provider, Autonomy Introspect. Issues with that software contributed to the collapse of its prosecution against three former executives at G4S last year. The issues with Autonomy related to how the software recognised punctuation, the people said. These included a failure to properly recognise non-character letters such as full stops, and meant names in certain formats could be missed.

The SFO’s software issues were first reported on Friday by Global Investigations Review. Disclosure issues have longed dogged the prosecutor, and also torpedoed a case against former Serco executives in 2021, triggering an external review of its disclosure processes. Brian Altman KC, who led that review, noted in his report that a disclosure officer said the Autonomy software was “unreliable” and “he had no faith in the Autonomy system”. The SFO is also currently awaiting a report from the watchdog the HM Crown Prosecution Service Inspectorate, set to be published this month, on the SFO’s approach to disclosure and whether it has the required skills and infrastructure to meet its obligations.

OpenText did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The developments come six months after Nick Ephgrave became director of the agency. The former police officer, and the first non-lawyer to run the SFO, has tried to move more quickly on cases in a bid to turnaround the beleaguered prosecutor, opening at least five investigations since he started. Ephgrave took over the helm from Lisa Osofsky, a former FBI lawyer. Osofsky has taken up a new role at consulting firm AlixPartners.

Serious Fraud Office reviews cases after software problems UK agency to look at past and present investigations as fresh issues emerge over evidence disclosure


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