The number of economic crime investigations by the City of London Police has fallen by more than a quarter compared with three years ago, according to figures.
Inquiries dropped from 777 in 2011-12 to 563 in 2014-15 according to information provided to Pinsent Masons, the law firm, raising concerns that funding cuts to police could be hitting the resources devoted to investigations.
The City of London Police, which is Britain’s principal police force investigating economic crime, takes on some of the most serious and significant cases of fraud. It has seen its budget reduced by about 15 per cent over the past five years.
It also hosts Action Fraud, which is the national fraud reporting centre, and the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau, which analyses hundreds of thousands of reports of fraud each year.
Despite the longer term fall in investigations, there has been a marginal improvement in the past year, with an increase of 8 per cent in the total number of investigations launched. Some 520 probes were conducted in 2013-14, according to the figures provided to the law firm.
Barry Vitou, partner and head of global corporate crime at Pinsent Masons said: “The fact that there are fewer investigations does not, unfortunately, mean that white collar crime rates are down. It is simply another indication that the bodies tasked with tackling the issue are ill-equipped to do so.”
He said that the apparent sharp decline in investigatory work seems at odds with a backdrop of high value fraud and big corporate scandals across the City and global financial services industry — including convictions for Libor-rigging and international probes into precious metals price-fixing.
The City of London Police said in a statement that comparing the number of investigations year-on-year does not reflect the changing nature, complexity and scale of the investigations taken on by the economic crime directorate.
“In particular, there has been an increasing focus placed on the identification and disruption of organised crime gangs both in the UK and overseas,” it said.
“It also does not reflect the emphasis now being placed on victim care and the resources being directed towards preventing and disrupting fraud — last year the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau requested the suspension of websites, phone numbers and bank accounts that had the potential to cause £476m worth of crime. This compares with the previous year when the figure was £305m,” it added.
City of London Police has had a number of successful prosecutions in the past year, including four men jailed for a total of 21 years in a £20m money-laundering case in March.
Figures published in May found that despite an increase in tip-offs, the number of white collar defendants being pursued by the Serious Fraud Office and the City of London Police fell from 11,261 in 2011 to 9,343 last year.
Under David Green, its director since 2012, the SFO has sought to focus on high value and complex fraud. The SFO has had a number of notable successes this year including the conviction of a trader, Tom Hayes, for Libor rigging but last week it dropped a long-running prosecution of Japanese firm Olympus after a string of procedural errors.