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Monday, 15 April, 2002, 15:58 GMT 16:58 UK
Police fail in fight against fraud
British Police force
Police say they are frustrated by under-funding
Concern about the way fraud enquiries are being compromised by a shortage of resources and manpower has been revealed by an investigation by BBC News.

It is difficult for corporate victims to report crime of this sort in some parts of the country

Perry Nove, Commissioner, City of London Police

Detective Superintendent Ken Farrow, the head of Britain's largest fraud squad, at the City of London Police, said he regularly received pleas from businesses outside the capital after they had been refused help by their local force.

"It's very difficult for me at times because I receive letters of concern from companies which want to try to get frauds investigated, but who find that the local police just doesn't have either the people or the expertise and cannot devote resources to their particular problem," he said.

"And they are frustrated because they know a crime has been committed and they want somebody to act on it."

Giving up on fraud

"There is a sea change occurring," Mr Farrow added.

"Recently one large provincial force has issued a policy saying they are not going to be in a position to handle corporate fraud any longer."

Detectives from the City of London fraud squad have recently been involved in a major investigation code-named "Range", in which fraudsters targeted a high street bank and attempted to steal a million pounds by transferring small amounts from individual accounts in branches around the country.

The City of London police only became involved when two of its officers had a chance meeting with senior bank executives at a conference. The bank had previously tried for a year to get other forces to investigate but had received no co-operation.

Chiefs take note

Speaking for the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO), the Commissioner of the City of London Force, Perry Nove, denied that fraud was slipping off the police agenda but admitted that the response to it was patchy.

"I think the point in principle, which I do accept, is that it is difficult for corporate victims to report crime of this sort in some parts of the country," he said.

"We are very conscious at Chief Officer level that we have to find a way of doing more."

One of the problems facing Chief Constables is that fraud is not one of the national policing priorities set by the Government - even though research carried out for the Home Office estimates the cost of fraud to be 15bn a year.

Paying the bill

The Director of the SFO, Rosalind Wright, warns that this now poses a "very substantial threat" to the UK economy.

She says losses through fraud are seventeen times greater than those through burglary and now cost each household in Britain 250 a year.

"Staunching the Flow" - the first of a two part investigation of fraud and money laundering - is broadcast on 16 April on BBC Radio 4 at 2000 UK time (1900 GMT) and repeated on Sunday at 1700 UK time (1600 GMT).

See also:

09 Apr 02 | Business
UK finance watchdog tightens grip
18 Mar 02 | Business
The hunt for terror funds hots up
27 Dec 01 | Business
City watchdog faces negligence case
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