Following the publication of the cross-governmental Anti-Corruption Strategy in December 2017, the Crown Prosecution Services (“CPS”), the National Crime Agency (“NCA”) and the Serious Fraud Office (“SFO”) have collaborated to agree a common framework for the compensation for victims of economic crime. The following General Principles have been agreed between the Departments with the aim of ensuring that overseas victims (states, organisations and individuals) of economic crime benefit from asset recovery or compensation orders made in UK courts.

  • The SFO, the CPS and the NCA (collectively referred to as “the Departments”) will consider the question of compensation in all relevant cases.
  • If compensation is appropriate, the Departments will use whatever legal mechanisms are available to secure it (application to prosecutions, civil disposals and DPAs).
  • The Departments will work collaboratively with DFID, FCO the Home office and HMT in order to identify overseas victims and facilitate appropriate compensation in a responsible manner.
  • The Departments will develop and make available on their websites, guidance on the implementation of these General Principles.
  • Where possible, the Departments will engage proactively with the relevant law enforcement or government officials in affected states.
  • The Departments will publish information on concluded cases.

Given the continuing uncertainty surrounding the Government’s plans for the future of the SFO, and its relationship with the NCA, it is unsurprising that the General Principles are published as joint document by the Departments.

Tackling corruption has always been an important aspect of the work of DFID and the FCO in particular. The explicit requirement that investigative and prosecuting agencies work actively with government departments is clearly important in order that overseas compensation is effective in practice. At the same time, with increasing dialogue between the prosecuting agencies, DFID and the FCO, interesting questions arise in relation to the extent to which prosecutions in the UK (with the benefit of extra-territorial legislation such as the Bribery Act) can be used as tools for diplomatic relations with foreign states and indeed the extent to which the prosecuting agencies might decide to pursue certain investigations or prosecutions owing to similar considerations.

It will be interesting to see the extent to which and how the guidance tackles the issue of compensation in the context of a defendant that is being investigated and prosecuted both in the UK and the ‘victim’ overseas jurisdiction.

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