Serious Fraud Office denies formal Compass investigation

25 November 2005
Serious Fraud Office denies formal Compass investigation

The Serious Fraud Office (SFO) has denied media reports saying it has started a full-blown investigation into caterer Compass Group.

In a clarification statement, the SFO said: "The SFO has a duty to record and consider reports of possible overseas corruption involving UK persons and/or corporate entities."

However, the SFO did admit that it had started a "preliminary process to assess whether a closer inspection of Compass] is appropriate and if so by which investigating authority".

A spokesman for the SFO said the current situation was procedural and not an "formal" investigation.

The process was triggered in October's when the United Nations announced it had launched an investigation into irregularities surrounding the awarding of a £35.3m food and water contract in Liberia to Compass subsidiary ESS Support Services.

A spokesman for Compass said: "As we have said, and the SFO have clarified, no formal investigation is underway and this is just a preliminary process."

If at the end of the procedure the SFO feels there is a case to answer it will then decide which government agency is best equipped to launch an investigation.

Since news of the UN action broke, Compass has sacked its UK and Ireland chief executive Peter Harris, who previously headed up ESS as chief executive. It has also called in auditors Ernst & Young to go through the subsidiary's books.

By Chris Druce

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