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NZ should keep its serious fraud office

Media Release 10 June 2008

NZ should keep its serious fraud office – international corruption expert

New Zealand should not abolish its Serious Fraud Office, according to international corruption expert Indira Carr, Professor of Law at the University of Surrey.

Professor Carr visited New Zealand as a guest of The University of Auckland Business School’s newly established New Zealand Governance Centre, and its Department of Commercial Law.

“It is important to have an independent specialist unit,” Professor Carr told a seminar at the Business School.

“With a separate independent unit, people know who to go to. And just as with computer crime, you need a unit with specialists who can detect and enforce, and who know what they are looking for,” she said.

Under proposed new legislation, the SFO would be disestablished and subsumed as a taskforce within the New Zealand Police. The taskforce would be located with a new Police department called the Organised and Financial Crime Agency. Public submissions are now being invited on the Serious Fraud Office (Abolition and Transitional Provisions) Bill. (Closing date is Friday 20 June.)

In the UK, most corruption and fraud cases were dealt with by that country’s Serious Fraud Office, while the Ministry of Defence also maintained a fraud squad for investigation of any serious fraud and corruption cases within the ministry. Such specialist units were essential for investigating complex corruption and fraud cases, Professor Carr said.

Also in her address, Professor Carr pointed out that different countries had adopted international anti-corruption conventions to varying levels, and questioned the degree to which these conventions could eradicate corruption.

She highlighted non-legal methods that are having some success in combating corruption, such as improvements in corporate social responsibility, education and, in the case of the Singaporean government, wage increases for civil servants.

Professor Carr said that the detrimental impact of corruption on economic development had been highlighted by international institutions such as the World Bank, the United Nations and Transparency International since the 1990s. This had resulted in the adoption of a total of nine conventions by regional, sub-regional and international bodies.

ENDS

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