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Serious Fraud Office under threat from Tory plans

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The Conservatives have rekindled a previous attempt by Theresa May to dismantle the Serious Fraud Office (SFO), the party's manifesto reveals.

The document says that the SFO will be put into the National Crime Agency if the Conservatives are elected in June.

When Home Secretary, Mrs May attempted to do much the same in 2011. However, she was thought to have been thwarted by her cabinet colleagues.

The SFO has had a chequered history since being created in 1988.

However, when Mrs May's earlier plan came to light, concerns were raised that splitting the investigators and the prosecutors could make attempts to tackle serious fraud less effective.

It was thought that the former would go to the NCA, while the latter would go to the Crown Prosecution Service.

The 2017 Conservative manifesto says: "We will strengthen Britain's response to white collar crime by incorporating the Serious Fraud Office into the National Crime Agency, improving intelligence sharing and bolstering the investigation of serious fraud, money laundering and financial crime."

Some experts feel the decision to scrap the SFO comes just as the organisation's effectiveness is starting the improve.

"After 30 years in existence, the SFO was just starting to show it had teeth in the fight against fraud," said Neill Blundell, partner and head of corporate crime and investigations at law firm Eversheds Sutherland.

"Significant and high profile cases have become the norm and, for the first time, significant fines on corporates.

"It had finally grown into a more serious body just as it looks likely it will be destroyed. The real question is whether the National Crime Agency will have the interest and budget to continue this fight," he said.

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