This week we and others we know have been appalled by the host of media reports about the former CEO of the Serious Fraud Office, Phillipa Williamson, being paid over £400,000 in irregular payments in relation to her early retirement.

The payments were “approved” by Richard Alderman, her boss, on 16th April 2012. Richard Alderman, despite being the head or “Director” of the SFO at the time was not authorised to approve the payments although they just so happened to be legally binding.

Margaret Hodge MP, chairperson of Public Accounts Committee, was “astonished” and called it a “Sweetheart deal” according to the NewStatesman.

As a result the annual accounts for the Serious Fraud Office for 2011/12 were qualified by the Comptroller and Auditor General. The SFO has had major setbacks of late on some high profile cases including cases that might have been high profile had they not lost them. These failures come as no surprise when you bear in mind the mindset of the SFO’s two most senior executives. They were focusing on topping up one of their own bank accounts!

No matter what, these scandalous wrongdoings are a slur on all the honest characters who work in the Serious Fraud Office and such malpractices undermine the moral high ground they take in their good efforts to bring criminals to justice.

It is just another example of the increasing lack of morality that has spread like a virus across the globe where regulators (who get bonuses nowadays for doing their normal jobs) reprimand wrongdoers with fines as opposed to proper punishment as alluded to already in our small but growing sample of snippets of news.

Indeed Richard Alderman was an advocate of plea bargaining and/or fining criminals involved in corporate fraud or corruption as opposed to punishing them properly through trial and imprisonment. Doesn’t that encourage malpractice if taking the risk of committing crime merely becomes a financial decision to take a bet on the chances of being caught?

Nevertheless, what is now abundantly clear is that this greed virus has now escalated to the very top of law enforcement agencies as this scandal shows. What is worse is that the officials at the top of the upper echelons of one of the world’s most prestigious law enforcement agencies obviously saw nothing wrong in reaching such a scandalous accord during a prolonged period of austerity. What on earth will be next in terms of greed, corruption, crime or grime?

It’s a shame it was under £1,000,000 because had it been one penny more than that we would have reported it to the SFO to investigate if it fell within their remit! Were any laws breached by either Phillipa Williamson and/or Richard Alderman? If you think you know of any, please let us know; we might just know of someone in the Public Accounts Committee who wouldn’t hesitate to pursue the matter.

By the way, if Williamson and Alderman are reading this they of all people (including Asil Nadir) will know that justice takes its time. Maybe rather than face the uncertainties they will now have to live through Williamson might resort to the repayment of the taxpayers’ money that Alderman so often boasted about saving in the good old days when the SFO’s annual reports weren’t qualified.

We would be surprised if this saga ended here. How many more similar payments or questionable arrangements have been made not just by the SFO but other government departments? The SFO press release makes no mention that they even looked for other questionable payments yet their press releases on others’ misdemeanours, malpractices and so on are normally very detailed indeed.

This article was first published on 3rd November 2012.

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