SFO loses bribery head to Kirkland & Ellis

The head of the anti-bribery team at the UK Serious Fraud Office (SFO) is leaving to join the London office of Kirkland & Ellis.

Santam Tumani, who was with the SFO for 17 years, has been closely involved in some of the UK’s most complex criminal fraud and corruption matters. Most recently he was the SFO’s joint lead lawyer in the investigation into the alleged manipulation of LIBOR and related interest rates. He will join Kirkland’s white collar practice on 24 September.

“With the addition of Satnam, we will have former senior government enforcement officials and prosecutors across our offices in Europe, Asia and the US, regions that are increasingly active and coordinated in global corruption and bribery investigations that may impact our clients,” said Jeffrey Hammes, the chairman of Kirkland’s global management executive committee in a statement.

Since the Bribery Act came into force last July the SFO has lost a number of prominent lawyers to US firms in the City. They include Vivian Robinson QC, who swapped his role as SFO general counsel to be a partner at McGuire Woods; head of policy Kathleen Harris, who moved to the London office of Arnold & Porter; and the former head of the fraud business area Glyn Powell, who joined the London office of Jones Day.

SFO prosecutor Robert Amaee also quit the agency in January 2011 for US firm Covington & Burling (17 January 2011). Tumani’s hire further underscores the growing demand for law firms to hire those with expertise in the Bribery Act.

“The prosecution of corporate bribery and corruption is a relatively recent development in the UK, and there are few prosecutors with Satnam’s range of experience,” said Chris Colbridge, a partner in Kirkland’s dispute resolution practice in London.

The SFO, which has been impacted by budget cuts in recent years, has faced much criticism in the way it has handled several cases.

Earlier this year the High Court issued a postscript warning to the SFO, saying it did not have the “proper resources, both human and financial” to investigate the Tchenguiz brothers. (31 July 2012)

The long-running case had been embarrassing for the agency. It carried out dawn raids on the brothers in March 2011 as it probed their business dealings following the collapse of Icelandic bank Kaupthing in 2008. In the same month the The Lawyer revealed a management shake-up at the SFO (31 July 2012)