The SFO has offered no evidence against three former G4S executives accused of fraud in relation to contracts with the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) for the electronic monitoring of offenders.
In November 2013, the SFO announced that it had launched a criminal investigation into G4S electronic monitoring contracts.
In July 2020, the SFO entered into a Deferred Prosecution Agreement (DPA) with G4S which accepted responsibility for three offences of fraud against the MoJ. G4S agreed to pay a financial penalty of £38.5m and the SFO’s full costs of £5.9m. Compensation to the MoJ has already been paid by G4S as part of a £121.3m civil settlement in 2014.
Under the terms of the DPA, G4S was allowed to continue as a government supplier. The DPA only applied to the potential criminal liability of G4S and not any current or former employees.
On 8 September 2020, as part of this case, the SFO charged three former executives with seven offences of fraud in connection with false representations made to the MoJ between 2009 and 2012.
Almost ten years after commencing the investigation, the SFO today announced that it was no longer in the public interest to continue the prosecution and offered no evidence. The three were formally acquitted when they appeared before the Central Criminal Court.
The trial was due to start on 20 March 2023 but the SFO "recognised the potential unfairness of asking that this should go on for a substantial period of further time" and rather than apply for a further adjournment to try to remedy the significant disclosure defects, offered no evidence.
The SFO has not had success in prosecuting individuals where the company at the centre of the investigation has secured a DPA.
In April 2017, Tesco secured a DPA and agreed to pay a £129m fine and £3m investigation costs. Three former directors of Tesco were acquitted of fraud and false accounting in 2018 and 2019.
In July 2019, Serco agreed to pay a £19.2m financial penalty and the SFO’s costs of £3.7m. This was in addition to £12.8m compensation already paid by Serco to the MoJ as part of a £70m civil settlement in 2013.
The prosecution of two former Serco executives was thrown out of court in 2021, also in relation to the SFO’s failure to disclose certain documents to the defence.
The SFO expressed regret at the way the G4S case turned out. This case, like that of Tesco and Serco, will have exposed taxpayers to millions of pounds of wasted costs and caused further damage to the SFO's reputation.
The collapse of the case is the latest high-profile failure for the SFO, which has faced criticism in recent years over repeated issues with disclosing key documents to defendants.