By Emma Haslett Monday, 19 August 2013

UK's 'FBI' fraud chief quits

Jeremy Outen, the chief-designate of the new National Crime Agency's economic crime arm, has quit - three months before it is due to launch.

What’s going on at the top of the UK’s organised crime agencies? Earlier this month, Sir Ian Andrews, chairman of the Serious Organised Crime Agency (Soca) stepped down because he had failed to declare his interest in a security consultancy he owns with his wife.

Now Jeremy Outen, the man poised to head the fraud arm of the new National Crime Agency – Britain’s ‘FBI’, to be launched later this year – has stepped down before he could even start his job.

Outen, a former member of KPMG’s forensic team, had been announced as director-designate of the NCA’s Economic Crime Command with much pomp and ceremony in April.

Quite why he stepped down isn’t clear: the FT reports it’s related to his tax arrangements, although he apparently told the newspaper any suggestion it is to do with tax avoidance is ‘inaccurate’.

The Home Office says simply Outen ‘has decided not to take up the post as director… for personal reasons’ – but added (helpfully) that ‘steps are currently being taken to ensure this position is filled’.

We’d hope so, considering the agency is supposed to be ‘fully functional’ by December 2013 – giving home secretary Theresa May about three months to fill the job.

It isn’t a good start for the NCA: the UK’s economic crime organisations have a long and embarrassing history of this sort of thing. Earlier this month, the Serious Fraud Office, which will work closely with the NCA, admitted to losing 32,000 documents related to an investigation into BAE Systems.

And then there’s the small matter of a £300m lawsuit against the SFO brought by the Tchenguiz brothers, who objected to the public fashion in which they were arrested back in 2011.

So here’s hoping that Outen’s sudden departure isn’t a sign of things to come for the NCA. It’s all beginning to become a bit Yes, Minister for us…

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