July 30, 2008
Who Gets to Decide Whether to Continue An Investigation?
Back in November 2007, the blog (here) discussed the BAE investigation. Now, David Leigh, The Guardian has an article titled, "Law Lords: Fraud Office Right to End Bribery Investigation in BAE Case" that tells of a recent ruling that supports the right of the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) to cease an investigation. (see also Francis Gibb, Times Online, "SFO 'Courageous' in Dropping BAE Arms Probe ; Forbes -Thomson Financial,House of Lords clears SFO of 'unlawful' conduct in Saudi arms case) It seems the Serious Fraud Office made a decision to stop an investigation involving BAE. The media notes that the reason for terminating the investigation was based on considerations of public interest, but that many were not happy with this decision.
In the United States, prosecutors have enormous discretion in deciding who will be investigated and for what, if any, possible crimes. In considering these discretionary decisions, the DOJ gives deference to executive power. Thus, it is possible that conduct might not be fully investigated if the result would hurt international relations. The public has little recourse in the U.S. to contest the prosecutorial decision-making when an investigation ends.
Stopping an investigation can sometimes be detrimental to the person or entity being investigated. Never having the chance to prove innocence can hurt the person or entity. On the other hand, if the person or entity had possible criminal exposure, ceasing an investigation would likely be very welcomed.
(esp) (blogging from SEALS '08 in Palm Beach, Florida)
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