G4S calls in Linklaters on potential SFO probe

Linklaters is advising G4S on a potential Serious Fraud Office (SFO) investigation into the private security company.

Government ministers today said they were considering calling in the SFO to investigate after the company and rival Serco overcharged the government by tens of millions for a range of services including electronic tagging contracts for offenders.

Linklaters partners Richard Godden and Tom Lidstrom, a litigator, are understood to have been advising G4S for at least three months.

Godden, a corporate partner, also advised G4S on the issues arising from problems with its Olympic contract last summer.

Norton Rose Fulbright historically advised G4S but today confirmed it wasn’t involved in the case. Herbert Smith Freehills, another legal advisor, is not known to be involved.

Global security company Serco has agreed to volunteer information to the Ministry of Justice’s organised forensic audit, run by professional services firm PWC, and will reveal details of billing arrangements for electronic tagging in England and Wales.

Justice secretary Chris Grayling told the House of Commons today that Serco said had “decided to withdraw from the re-tendering process for the electronic monitoring service”.

Grayling told MPs that mismanagement of the contract had resulted in tens of millions of pounds of wasted payments, with the security companies allegedly charging for tagging individuals who were not in fact being monitored.

He said: “It included charges for people who were back in prison and had had their tags removed, people who had left the country, and those who had never been tagged in the first place but who had instead been returned to court.

“There are a small number of cases where charging continued for a period when the subject was known to have died.”

In addition to calling in the SFO to assess possible criminal aspects of the matter, Grayling said processes in the ministry would also be investigated.

In a statement, G4S said it was conducting its own review of the allegations and that it was “not aware of any indications of dishonesty or misconduct”. It continued: “… any evidence or indication of dishonesty should be referred to the relevant authorities, including the SFO.”

An SFO spokeswoman told The Lawyer that its investigators were “awaiting a referral from the ministry, which so far has not arrived”.