Ontario has established a new agency to combat fraud. The Serious Fraud Office (the “SFO”), modelled on the UK’s anti-fraud agency of the same name, will place police investigators and fraud prosecutors under one umbrella to ensure the proper expertise and enforcement coordination is applied to cases of high-value fraud in Ontario.
Ontario’s new SFO arises from a confidential report authored by the Hon. Stephen Goudge Q.C. (formerly of the Ontario Court of Appeal and author of the report on pediatric forensic pathology following revelations about discredited pathologist Dr. Charles Smith). Goudge reviewed and liaised with agencies in other jurisdictions in the process of making recommendations for how to strengthen Ontario’s efforts to combat the growth in sophisticated fraud activity against businesses and individuals.
In combining full time fraud investigators with specialized Crown Attorneys under one roof with a shared mandate, the expectation is that white collar crime enforcement will become more robust and efficient in the province.
As the Globe and Mail reported recently, Kari Dart will be the new SFO Director and Crown Attorney, John Corelli, will be the SFO’s Chief Counsel. According to the Globe, a key plank in the SFO’s mandate will be to seize fraudulently obtained funds.
The move to ensure proper staffing and resources are applied to cases of serious fraud is a step in the right direction and aligns us with similar efforts at increased anti-fraud enforcement in the UK, US, and Australia. More and more, enforcement agencies are cooperating and collaborating in these investigations as modern-day fraudsters move money across borders and use advanced technologies to hide their tracks.
If your business suspects it has been the victim of serious fraud, it is critically important to act quickly to preserve evidence, conduct an internal investigation, and utilize civil and criminal asset recovery mechanisms.