This past summer the Ontario government, quietly created a new organization whose responsibility is to investigate and prosecute complex fraud cases and white-collar crime. It is known as the Serious Fraud Office, or SFO. The office is modelled after similar agencies in the United Kingdom and the United States. Its goal is to combine the resources of the Crown’s investigators and prosecutors and provide them with the tools and resources to pursue and solve complex financial crimes. The focus will be those crimes involving serious or complex fraud, bribery, and corruption along with an array of other financial crimes, including money laundering and large-scale fraud.
2015 Report Demonstrated Need for Better Oversight
The starting point for the creation of the SFO was a confidential report created in 2015 by former Ontario Court of Appeal (ONCA) judge Stephen Goudge. His report and its conclusions were based on interviews with investigative agencies around the world.
Kari Dart will be the new SFO Director and Crown Attorney, John Corelli, will be the SFO’s Chief Counsel.
One of the primary goals is to prevent cases from languishing and being dismissed because of unconstitutional court delays and lack of communication between investigators and prosecutors. In the SFO’s model, prosecutors will be involved from the outset of a case and not only at the end of the investigation by which time the police have decided already to lay a criminal charge. This collaboration is partly an effort to address the Supreme Court of Canada’s (SCC) decision in R. v. Jordan (2016) which held that accused criminals must be tried within 30 months.
Over the past few decades, a number of high-profile white-collar cases in Ontario have concluded in acquittals. In some cases of well-established deception in the capital markets, no individuals were charged criminally at all. In 2013, three former executives of Nortel, the telecommunications giant that collapsed in bankruptcy, were acquitted of fraud charges in R. v. Dunn. Similarly, in 2010, six former executives of Royal Group Technologies in R. v. De Zen were found not guilty of improperly pocketing millions of dollars from a land sale.
The hope is to hit the perpetrators’ motives and that which they value most, their pocketbooks. Specialists will be engaged from the very beginning of an investigation always with the goal in mind of seizing any proceeds of crime. Further, these specialists will have an eye to the bigger picture from the start. One of the issues in past cases is that municipal police forces have been lacking the resources to properly investigate financial crimes that span multiple jurisdictions.
The hope his that by teaming up all necessary parties from the start, it will be easier to track and investigate these expansive crimes, and gather the data necessary to properly prosecute those involved.
Working With Federal Authorities to Inform Canadians
The SFO is also working in conjunction with the federal Anti-Fraud Centre to alert Canadians to various scams being perpetrated across the country, including phone scams targeting individuals that seem to be flourishing at the current moment. These include:
- Air duct cleaning scams
- False Canada Revenue Agency claims
- False Prize-Winning Claims, such as cruises or other vacations
If you have a question about civil fraud, employee fraud, or similar issues, the highly skilled Toronto corporate lawyers at Milosevic Fiske LLP can help. We can provide you with advice and guidance suited to your unique situation. Call us at 416-916-1387 or contact us online to learn more about how we can help.