What is Serious Fraud Investigation Office (SFIO)?

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Overview:

The Supreme Court, while dismissing a petitiion for quashing a complaint filed by the Serious Fraud Investigation Office (SFIO), has left a crucial question of law open i.e., whether SFIO are police officer(s) under the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973.

About Serious Fraud Investigation Office (SFIO)

  • It is a corporate fraud investigating agency set up by the Government of India.
  • The SFIO was established on 21st July, 2015, and operates under the Ministry of Corporate Affairs.
  • Section 211 of the Companies Act, 2013, accorded a statutory status to the SFIO.
  • Objective: The core objective of the SFIO is to be an investigative and law enforcement agency to detect and prosecute or recommend to prosecute white-collar frauds or crimes.
  • Types of Investigations: SFIO will usually take up the following types of cases sent by the Central Government:
    • Complex cases needing investigation across multi-discipline and inter-departmental affairs.
    • Cases with a huge monetary impact on the public.
    • Cases where investigation can lead to the cleaning up of systems and the implementation of changes in laws and procedures.
    • Serious fraud cases sent by the Department of Company Affairs.
  • SFIO can also take up cases on its own only when decided by the Director of the SFIO, and also giving the reasons for taking up the case in writing.
  • Upon assignment of a case to the SFIO, no other investigative agency can proceed with an investigation for any offence under the Act.
  • The Central Government can ask the SFIO to investigate a company in the following cases:
    • When it receives a report from the Registrar or Inspector under Section 208 of the Companies Act 2013.
    • When the company itself passes a special resolution and requests an investigation.
    • Where there is a huge monetary impact on the public or for other large-scale public interest cases.
    • When any Central Government or State Government department makes a request for an investigation.
  • Organisational Structure:
    • It consists of experts in the fields of accountancy, forensic auditing, law, information technology, investigation, company law, capital markets and taxation.
    • SFIO is headed by a Director as Head of Department in the rank of Joint Secretary to the Government of India. 
    • The Director is assisted by Additional Directors, Joint Directors, Deputy Directors, Senior Assistant Directors, Assistant Directors Prosecutors, and other secretarial staff. 
  • Headquarters: The headquarters of SFIO is in New Delhi, with five regional offices in Mumbai, New Delhi, Chennai, Hyderabad, and Kolkata.

Q1) What is forensic auditing?

A forensic audit is an analysis and review of the financial records of a company or person to extract facts, which can be used in a court of law. Forensic auditing is a specialty in the accounting industry, and most major accounting firms have a department of forensic auditing. Forensic audits include the experience in accounting and auditing practices as well as expert knowledge of forensic audit's legal framework.

Source: Are SFIO Officers Police Officers Under Code Of Criminal Procedure? Supreme Court Leaves Question Of Law Open