Serious Fraud Office to Economic and Organised Crime Office
The Serious Fraud Office Act, 1993, (Act 466) that sought to, and did “establish a Serious Fraud Office as a specialized agency of government to monitor, investigate and on the authority of the Attorney-General, prosecute any offence involving serious financial or economic loss to the state and to make provision for connected and incidental purposes” was given Presidential assent on 30th December, 1993 to operate as one of the Public Services of Ghana.
The mandate of the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) established by Act 466 did not extend to the investigation and prosecution of offences related to drug trafficking, money laundering and other organised crimes. Under Act 466, persons convicted of any serious financial crime or fraud would go to prison and come back to comfortably enjoy the proceeds of the crimes they committed. It became important to augment the law to take care of these lapses and also to respond to the spate of sophisticated criminal activities emanating from advancement in technology and globalization as well as cross border movements came up. For instance there certainly arose the need to respond to cyber crimes, which according to available records, recorded thefts and other frauds amounting to $1 trillion worldwide in 2008 alone.
In the same year, between $1.5 and $6.5 trillion passed through processes of money laundering activities around the world whiles some $730 billion is reported to have changed hands in illicit trade. All these were in addition to between $300 billion and $1 trillion in counterfeiting and piracy.
On Friday 19th September, 2008, while inaugurating the Serious Fraud Office Board under the distinguished chairmanship of Justice R.T. Aninakwa, a retired Supreme Court Judge in Accra on Friday 19th September, 2008 (Daily Graphic, September 20, 2008, pg 3. This should be a footnote) the then Attorney-General and Minister of Justice, Hon. Joe Ghartey announced that a bill had been drafted for presentation to Parliament to be passed into law. The object of the law he said was to set up a new agency, “to detect and prevent organised crime, help eradicate economic crime and take the proceeds of crime”. The Attorney-General and Minister of Justice said the law would tackle money laundering, human trafficking, cyber crime and computer-related offences.
Touching more on the bill, Mr. Ghartey said “organised crime had reached alarming proportions in recent times and it was therefore important to establish a specialised agency with wide powers to curb the spate of criminal activities which were eating into the social and moral fibre of the country”. A memorandum on the bill signed by the AG said the increase in criminal activities might be attributed to the fact that the punishment for offences had not been effective to combat crimes and that ‘crime was still high because perpetrators who were given jail terms or were fined, later continued their criminal activities because they were ultimately allowed to enjoy their ill-gotten gains.’
He added that ‘it has become imperative to strengthen existing structures to help eradicate crime.’
The EOCO Act which was gazetted on the 9th of September, 2010 and set up the Economic and Organised Crime Office (EOCO, also called ‘the Office’) as a “body corporate with perpetual succession” to replace the SFO, and repealed the Serious Fraud Office Act, 1993 (Act, 466).