SFO appoints former judge and GC in management shake-up

The Serious Fraud Office (SFO) has appointed former judge Geoffrey Rivlin QC to advise it on bringing cases to court.

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It is one of a number of appointments at the agency, including the hire of Alun Milford as general counsel. Milford, the former head of the CPS Organised Crime Division, succeeds Vivian Robinson QC, who stood down last July to join McGuireWoods (see in-house profile 10 May 2010).

Other appointments include head of policy Kristin Jones, who joins from the Attorney General’s office; Kevin Davis, who has joined as chief investigating officer on a two-year attachment from HMRC; and Matthew Wagstaff, who also joins from the CPS.

The SFO has suffered a series of defeats in the High Court, most recently in June, when Lord Justice Gross halted the agency’s attempt to seize documentsfrom four major banks in relation to an Italian criminal investigation (20 June 2012). On the same day the office announced it was dropping an investigation into property tycoon Vincent Tchenguiz.

This came after Debevoise & Plimpton’s Lord Goldsmith QC, instructed for Tchenguiz, questioned whether the SFO was fit for purpose (20 June 2012).

Pinsent Masons revealed in May that the agency had not carried out a single dawn raid in the last year, although sources claimed this was nothing to do with the Tchenguiz fiasco (28 May 2012).

An SFO spokesman said of the statistics: “It would be completely wrong to interpret a reduction in search numbers as a lack of activity or a loss of appetite to vigorously investigate fraud.”

The most recent appointments are perceived to be an attempt by the agency to reinvigorate itself. PricewaterhouseCoopers forensic services director Keith McCarthy commented: “These appointments are positive moves to provide the director of the SFO with support and experience in the very difficult area of enforcing against serious economic crimes, which often involve transnational criminality.

“Both appointees are very well experienced in dealing with the most complex criminal casework and will undoubtedly bolster the SFO’s ability to deal with high profile cases, guided by the leadership of a determined prosecutor in David Green.”

Former SFO prosecutor Robert Amaee, who quit the agency in Januaru 2011 for Covington & Burling (17 January 2011http://www.thelawyer.com/covington-brings-former-sfo-prosecutor-on-board/1006647.article) said it was a “masterstroke” appointment by SFO director David Green. “Geoffrey Rivlin is finely attuned to the complexities of cases involving serious economic crime, having presided over many of the high profile cases brought to court by the SFO, including Mabey & Johnson, Innospec and the sentencing of Julian Messant from PWS,” he said.