and france to discuss possible military action in response it was vital chemical attacks did not go unchallenged. inspectors are now on their way to douma. they expect to start work on saturday. the international chemical weapons watchdog has confirmed the uk's assessment of the nerve agent used to poison a former russian spy and his daughter in the english city of salisbury. the british government says the russian state must have been behind last month's attack. moscow denies any involvement. president donald trump's nominee for secretary of state has denied during a confirmation hearing that he is a war hawk. cia director mike pompeo told the senate that as america's top diplomat, he would always prioritise diplomacy. mr pompeo is seen by many in washington as a trump loyalist. you up—to—date with the headlines,
it is just after half past two in the morning. now on bbc news, hardtalk. welcome to hardtalk, i am stephen sackur. politicians will always say that they are tough on crime, but the evidence suggests they find it easier to be tough on murderers, muggers and robbers than they do on corporate white collar criminals engaged in fraud and money laundering. my guest today is the outgoing head of britain's serious fraud office, david green. for six years, he's been out to apprehend corporate criminals, but has he ever been given the tools and the backing to do thejob properly? david green, welcome to hardtalk.
you are just coming to the end of six years running britain's serious fraud office. how much does it concern you that the uk still has a reputation as a place where dodgy deals and dodgy businessman and women — can find a home and pursue their dodgy business? well, i wouldn't really comment on how our reputation is perceived, i'm an investigator and prosecutor. i go after evidence and the individuals to whom that evidence points. but reputation matters? national reputation? yes. of course, extremely important. we are getting — we have seen, we are getting new tools, useful tools such as unexplained
wealth orders, which will help us attack that problem. so are you saying that yes there has been a problem, we are on the cusp of being able to fix it? i'm mindful of, for example, the words of tom keating, respected character for the centre for financial crime and security studies, who said last month "the british government can no longer ignore the ugly truth that the reputation of london and the uk more broadly, is as the money—laundering capital of the world. it's justifiably earned, it's been stoked by the ambitions of the city, aided in no small part by past governments." an interesting quote, he may well be right. the serious fraud office focuses of course on the top level of serious and complex fraud, and also mainly commercial bribery. but, i'm pretty stunned. he may be right, you say. so you may work in a milieu where, as he would put it — the city, aided and abetted
by past governments, has become a place where money—laundering is the norm? yes, i don't think i necessarily agree with that. i certainly wouldn't regard money—laundering as the norm. we do know, however, there's been cash flows into this country which may be questionable and it is something which, an area which is increasingly subject to interest of investigators and prosecutors. i wouldn't suggest that you are the only agency concerned with this sort of thing, of course you are part of an umbrella of different enforcement agencies, but it does strike me that your funding has been squeezed at a time where we've seen this white—collar and corporate crime going up, according to all of the estimates. your budget for actually dealing with it, controlling it and enforcing the law, has gone steadily down. i'm always touched by people's concern about the budget for the sfo. in fact, we have never — i have never turned down a case
on the basis that it would be too expensive to investigate. ourfunding, our core funding is around £31 million... it used to be over £50 million. but, on top of that, we also have access to what's called blockbuster funding and between the two of them, that comes to an average spend of around £50—52 million per year throughout my term. with a high of 62 and a low of 38. to be clear, you have to go cap in hand on a case—by—case basis to win the money to actually conduct the investigations and prosecutions that you feel are the bare minimum of what your office should be doing? it seems an extraordinary way to work. no, that's not quite how it works. what happens is if any particular investigation, we think will cost more than a certain percentage of our core budget, than in those circumstances we can go to the treasury and get blockbuster
funding to take care of that entire case. and that we have done in two or three cases, rolls—royce is one example, libor was another. you were quoted as saying this by the bloomberg news agency as recently as just a month or so ago, you said "you can detect a certain ambivalence about corporate crime. you can see people wondering, why on earth are you, ie. the head of the sfo, investigating these blue—chip listed companies?" is that a mindset, a characterisation that is about the politicians in this country? no, no, i didn't mention that in connection with politicians and i've certainly never come across from any politician in this country. what i have seen, is perhaps in the media generally, a slight sort of questioning of why are you going after big, important british companies? well, i'm amazed you say it's nothing to do with politicians, because at an event, again, according to bloomberg, at an event recently, you questioned david cameron directly yourself. idid. you said to him, "what do you think
of the work we have been doing at the sfo?" he replied saying, "yes, i support the work that the sfo does." but he added — rather crucially "as prime minister you do feel a responsibility for wanting british business to get out there, win orders and succeed." so, he said — "sometimes there are real frustrations and worries and concerns." well, that's exactly the view he expressed. i know it is, but it's a rather odd one. isn't it? he's sort of suggesting that he has to balance the pursuit ofjustice, which is yourjob, against concerns about winning orders, keeping business in this country. well, i thought it was remarkable, but then that's why i asked the question. did you think it was remarkable? yes, idid. you felt he was indicating that there was some sort of compromise. the answer i was expecting was yes, when i said to him "do you support the work then, and now support the work of the serious fraud office in its investigation of commercial bribery by british business abroad?"
one might think the answer to that is yes, but we got a slightly different answer, which bloomberg has seen of interest. of interest to you, and ijust wonder if that's indicative of not only david cameron's own mindset but perhaps the incumbent theresa may as well. hang on. we know that she has long seen the serious fraud office as something of an anomaly. she wants to fold it in to a much larger national crime agency and take away its independent entity. that's a rather different point. i've always said how the economic crime institutional waterfront is entirely a matter of the ministers. myjob has been and always have done for the past six years, is to make the case for the sfo as strongly as i possibly can. i have done in respect of three basic principles. firstly, the roskilde model on which we are built, namely we both investigate and prosecute in a single organisation. secondly, the fact that we are a small organisation with a sole
priority, mainly bribery and serious and complex fraud. and thirdly, our independence, our independence from central government, which i think is crucial, if — given the fact that we do investigate some of our most important companies. and given those three criteria that you've applied, is it not time for you to say, because you are leaving and perhaps you can speak a little more frankly, that you haven't had the backing from the politicians that you've needed? i have had sufficient backing. i have had a lot of support. we've just discussed at how surprised you were at david cameron's mindset. he was speaking as an ex—prime minister at a conference. yeah, but he was describing his mindset when he was prime minister. that's not what i detected when he was. i have not detected any lack of support or certainly any opposition to what we were doing. there may be perfectly principled views as to whether the sfo should continue in its present form.
i happen to think we should, for the reasons i gave. let's get to the nitty—gritty of the cases you've gone after during your six year tenure. how do you — because you have a great deal of choice, you're interesting. you are the investigator and prosecutor in a number of cases you take to choose in any given year. how do you choose which cases to take on? when i came into thejob, there were various, sort of criteria, including financial amounts, if a case was worth... it had to be sufficiently big. that seemed to me to be completely wrong and unhelpful because these days, all frauds are huge and there can be a potential loss that is never actually crystallised, but would nevertheless be an extremely serious case. so i have said that the cases we will go after are cases will undermine uk financial plc in particular,
or the city of london. i think if you look at rolls—royce, glaxosmith kline, libor and so forth, you will see... let's go through a few of these. libor is perhaps the key, it is the case where your office went after one of the big scandals connected with everything that came about after the financial meltdown of 07—08. libor is the interbank lending, one of the basic bits of banking. crosstalk. indeed. so, it's crucial to the way banks finance both themselves and give money to those seeking to borrow from the banks. it's one of the key cogs in the machinery of the financial system and it appears that it was being rigged, and you looked into it. yes. your predecessor had decided not to. how could that be? i don't know.
his choice, i looked at it when i came in the summer of 2012... to remind people, you were looking at something that had happened three or four years previous. yes, indeed. it seems weird to me that the serious fraud office said for three of four years oh, that's nothing to do with us. it may be that my predecessor may have thought that is something that needed to be looked at by regulators such as the financial conduct authority. i took a different view. i thought it warranted a criminal investigation by the sfo. you undertook one and it took a long time and was extraordinary complex. at the end of it, without going into too much detail, half a dozen or so people individuals, traders, were convicted of crimes, a few are serving sentences. none of them, it has to be said, very senior, and a whole bunch of other cases that you brought to court failed and the individuals concerned were acquitted. a lot of people looking at it would say you went after the easiest cases, the low hanging fruit, you didn't make much of a success of it and in the course of doing so, you ended up with an awful lot
of egg on your face. no egg that i've detected. what we did is that we prosecuted tom hayes, we then prosecuted some cash traders, all of whom were acquitted after a two—month trial. we then went after the barclays traders and i think four of those were convicted. different juries. .. not a great hit rate. i refer to egg on yourface... differentjuries take different views of the same evidence. of course they do, that is their right. my reference to egg on face was in reference, because it is clear that one of the key prosecution expert witnesses, you as the boss, you oversaw the appointment of, was absolutely useless. he was incompetent. it was highly complex testimony and he was having to text his mates to find out what on earth they were talking about.
that was the case... thejudge called it a debacle. in the court of appeal, it was called a debacle, but they made the point clearly in dismissing the appeal that the evidence had not made any difference. nobody would pretend that pursuing these sorts of crimes is not incredibly complicated, difficult stuff. it takes a long time, huge resources, we've discussed whether you have enough resources to do it. but the actual appearance was that the sfo wasn't really doing a good enough job. i think i'd dispute that. as i said, we have brought a number of people to trial. we now have got the libor trial under way at the moment... that's the eurozone version of libor. yeah. christian bittar has pleaded guilty in that case and that's extremely important. these are not little people. christian bittar earned 90 million euros... he's a very successful trader. i take that point. but you know, a lot of people are reflecting on 07—08, what happened in the financial crash and as it happens i saw
the big short the other day, the movie, it is a reminder of the craziness and negligence and criminality of what happened to our financial system. here are some words from the former prime minister gordon brown, ten years on from the crash. he had to deal with it and the fallout, he said this on the decade—long anniversary: "if bankers who act fraudulently are not put injail with their bonuses returned as well and their assets confiscated and banned from future practice, we only give a green light to similar, risk—laden behaviour in new forms." i put it to you that the bankers at the top of this pyramid, those who took the decisions, who behaved negligently and criminally in some cases, i daresay, they got off scot—free. the problem is, i think contained in your wording was a leap from negligence to criminality. negligence is no good for a prosecutor. we need evidence of criminality. and as i said in the beginning, we don't go after individuals. we don't say "let's see if we can
get a chair or a ceo." why not? we look where the evidence goes. are you saying you are not interested in bringing in ceos? of course we are, of course we are, if the evidence is there. but we follow the evidence, not individuals. we follow the evidence, and the individuals to whom the evidence points, wherever they may be. as the outgoing chief of the sfo, can you, hand on heart, look back over the last six years of in your investigations of the financial sector, and say that you believe all of those guilty of criminal wrongdoing have been at least put a courtroom and the evidence against them tested? i can say people have been been charged where there has been sufficient evidence to charge them and it's in the public interest to do so. that is the co—test we have to apply as prosecutors. but this is a careful, methodical process where you follow the evidence.
you don't start with saying, "let's get this person." you have said this, and this is not so much about your investigations into the banking sector, but more about your approach to corporate crime. you have said, "people commit fraud, not companies, and you can't jail a company." yeah. so, i guess the public will be left wondering if that is the approach, then who is really being held to account? well, you can prosecute a company, but the company cannot be jailed. the only available punishment is to fine it, or, at the end of the day, wind it up i suppose. if there is evidence, if you can prove offences by individuals, of course, you go after them as well. honestly, it baffles me how you, again, in your role as head of the sfo, can supervise a four—year investigation into a great big flagship company like rolls—royce, and you conclude that there was systematic corrupt behaviour
going on over a three decade period, and yet, in the end, you don't bring down any of the absolute top leaders of the company over that period, you give them a deferred prosecution agreement. you fine them an awful lot of money, but actually, who, in terms of individuals, is held to account? two separate tracks here. a deferred prosecution agreement can only apply to a company. we felt in that case for lots of reasons that we would enforce against the company via a dpa first. on a totally different track, we are sitting through evidence with a view to see whether individuals should be charged. yes, because what we see is not huge amounts of money being paid back, but as one expert pointed out, as soon as the deferred prosecution
agreement deal was announced the markets were so thrilled for rolls—royce‘s future that it far outweighed the punishment. it went on io%, but that's because... who's paying for 30 years of fraudulent and corrupt behaviour? as always in these cases, the traders will build in that sort of fine. who's paying? yes. on a separate track, one looks at the evidence to see if there is a case against individuals. we are still undertaking that exercise. there will have to be or the public will feel gravely let down. that is not how a prosecutor works. you look at the evidence. this is what the judge said, while at the same time agreeing to this so—called dpa, which was controversial, he said, "my reaction, when first considering the papers, was that rolls—royce were not to be prosecuted in the context of egregious criminality over decades then it was difficult to see how any company would be prosecuted." even thejudge seems
to be baffled by this. yes. well, hardly. that's the first paragraph of his, i think, 90—page judgement, where he then goes through all the conduct and sets out the reasons he thinks the dpa was in the interest of justice. this is the president of the queen's bench division. this isn't any old judge. but as you're outgoing, can you say to me that you believe that the punishment fit the crime is right now, in your sphere of investigation of criminality? in terms of individuals? yes. sentences of fraud and bribery have gone up almost exponentially over the past ten or 15 years. for corporates, rolls—royce, a company sailing off into the horizon despite 30 years of what the judge described as egregious criminality. and paying a fine of £497 million. you think that's fine? so many would say, given its behaviour, rolls—royce should be wound up.
it's a fair old fine, isn't it? as we discussed, looking at the share price afterwards it didn't really matter what happened. i think £500 billion is a fairly significant penalty. before we close, let's consider the international climate. do you get the kind of international cooperation you need in the context of a global business and financial market? yes. there are some countries where getting evidence is either impossible or not to happen. russia, for instance, is an example. interesting that you alight upon russia. i think it is about £80 billion worth of russian property purchases in london. it has become a haven for the so—called oligarchs. are you able to investigate where they get their money from? well, we couldn't get evidence out of russia, no. in order to prove money laundering, you need to prove, in law,
a predicate offence. in other words, the offence which generated the money, and show that that's criminality, and therefore the money that they are spending investing here is basically the fruits of crime. now, you know, that's a big ask. depending where the criminality took place, that obviously can be very difficult. given what you describe as the non—cooperation to russia, you cannot actually pursue any of these people? it depends. there may be offences over here. there may be offenses in otherjurisdictions. very rarely does the money come straight from russia to this country. it will come through other jurisdictions and other offences may have been committed there. which other countries are not co—operating right now? other countries? well, i think russia's a good example. we've had that one.
which others? i think, now and again, china is not as cooperative as one would expect. but i'm not going to sit here and list countries who perhaps may have perfectly valid objections to an execution of a letter of request. i suppose the panama papers told us that money was being hidden away, salted away, in havens of different descriptions. i wonder if you're able to get access to the financial records and deals that you need to get from all sorts of different places. are you referring specifically to british overseas territories? british and non—british. british overseas territories, much, much improved. much improved. the panama papers have been sifted by all interested agencies for material relevant to organised crime, tax cases and to fraud. so they have been gone through. just a final thought on britain and the future. we're in the era of brexit now. the message from the government is that britain has to up its game in terms of its competitiveness, its attractiveness in terms of global business. do you think that climate makes it ever more difficult for the people running your agency?
because the government's riding two horses at once. it wants to say the rule of law applies to the city of london, but also say it wants as much money to come into london as possible. yeah, but i think there's an important point here. i absolutely agree with you, we will need inward investment. but inward capital investment is struck by two things. one is a rule of lawjurisdiction, where things are reliable and predictable, and, secondly, a level playing field for investors. and that is what the sfo helps to generate. do you think britain, right now, has the balance right? the balance between? between attracting the business but ensure that all is being done to pursue justice and wipe out white—collar crime. i think always more can be done, but the sfo is very active. we now have a staff of 540. we have a significant budget.
we have ongoing investigations. we have trials, so we play our part. david green, we have to leave it there. thank you very much indeed for being on hardtalk. thank you. thank you, david. well, thursday was a really disappointing day across so many parts of the country. five degrees, for example, in sheffield, really cloudy skies and we saw scenes like this, a picture from leicester, but beautiful weather too yesterday. lovely highland picture here of some flowers. anyway, let's have a look at the forecast for the early hours of friday then, still some rain
and drizzle around low, grey cloud shrouding the hilltops of the pennines, really unpleasant conditions out there through the course of the night. so clear in the very far north of scotland and the temperatures wherever you are in the far north or south, not really that different, seven in plymouth, around six degrees expected in edinburgh. the forecast for friday itself, we are expecting some of that grey, damp weather to eventually clear away, and for most of us it's a case of cloudy skies through much of the morning and much of the afternoon as well, but in the south it looks as though some of those clouds will be breaking up a little bit, so there will be some sunshine on the way i think later in the day for london, cardiff, possibly for birmingham and norwich as well. 14 tomorrow in london, still chilly in the north, only seven in aberdeen and nine in the lowlands of scotland. that's friday, how about the weekend ? it looks as though things are going to be warming up, quite a bit of bright weather around but we are also expecting heavy showers to develop in one or two areas, so not
a completely dry weekend. let's look at saturday's weather forecast, starts off really bright across most of the uk, the chances are there will be one or two showers breaking out across southern areas, so be prepared for the odd downpour. but for most of us across the country, it is going to be a dry, bright day with temperatures up to 17 in the south. then saturday night into sunday, this low pressure swings in off the atlantic, it increases the winds across western areas of the uk, really gusty conditions, and it's also going to bring some cloud and rain for south—western parts of england, for wales, northern ireland and western scotland. the east, i think, on sunday, should just about stay dry and in fact here, those temperatures will start to rise, you'll particularly notice those temperatures rising on the north sea coast, look at that, 14 expected in newcastle. into early next week, into midweek, we'll start to see really warm air coming out of the south, turning hot across france and potentially quite hot in the south of the uk, and here's an outlook. say, for example, in london,
i suspect some time next week temperatures could even peak at around 2a, cardiff will be around 20 or so and even further north those temperatures will rise. a very warm welcome to bbc news — broadcasting to viewers in north america and around the globe. my name is mike embley. our top stories: tensions are mounting about possible us military action in syria. jets and warships are moved into place, but president trump adopts a less bullish tone. we're looking very, very seriously, very closely, at that whole situation. and we'll see what happens, folks, we'll see what happens. moscow warns any military action could risk war between russia and the us. mike pompeo is grilled by senators at his confirmation hearing. the man who wants to be america's new top diplomat denies he's a war hawk. is the us headed for agricultural boom or bust? as president trump tries to sow confidence about his trade policies, farmers are uncertain.