What does it tell us?
Compared to last year, the numbers of convictions are down by 71. The number of cases being criminally investigated is also down by 136. These figures are surprising given the clear shift over recent years to prosecute more. Of course, the cases investigated could be bigger and more complex, as the Director suggests. However, this is not a trend that we have observed in practice.
The reference to fines issued under the Money Laundering Regulations may also be a sign of the breadth of work being undertaken by the Fraud Investigation Service.
What it does not say?
It's also not clear whether the decrease in criminal investigations and convictions are linked to a greater use of civil voluntary settlements, such as the use of COP9 agreements. It also doesn't say how much of the £5 billion recovered is in relation to criminal or civil cases.
Out of those criminal cases involving the recovery of money, it would be interesting to know how much has been recovered by way of the Proceeds of Crime Act (POCA). We've observed HMRC cases recently where the POCA has not been utilised, and subsequent civil assessments have been preferred.
The nature of the top prosecutions set out in 2019 are of a similar nature to those in 2018, and are the sort of prosecutions you would expect to see in a list of “biggest criminal cases”. To get a better idea of the work conducted by the FIS, it would be helpful to know the average quantum involved in criminal and civil settlements. How you calculate the average, I will leave for the accountants to discuss…