According to the independent government department's criteria: 'The SFO director will only institute an investigation if it appears to her, on reasonable grounds, to involve serious or complex fraud.'
A representative for the SFO said: 'We have 78 active cases at the moment, so in order to take on a case, it must be serious.'
The representative added: 'Due to the complexity of most cases, a lawyer, known as the case controller, will head up the investigation with an assistant and a financial investigator. There are usually about five or six people on a team.'
According to the SFO, the first step is to establish whether any 'criminal activity has taken place'. In Azlan's case, the department will work in conjunction with the police, namely the North Yorkshire Police and, specifically, its fraud squad division.
Also, SFO criteria stipulates that an investigation is taken on if the value of the alleged fraud exceeds #1 million and is considered serious or complex.
A further consideration is if the suspected fraud 'is such that the direction of the investigation should be in the hands of those responsible for the prosecution.'
The SFO was established in April 1988 and the director of the department exercises her power under the superintendence of the attorney general.
Oct 1996 Interim pre-tax profit up 36 per cent to #4.4 million
Jan 1997 Equity issue to raise capital for Dutch company Akam fails
Jun 1997 Azlan shares suspended
Jul 1997 Nine staff resign
Aug 1997 Marketing director and purchasing manager leave
Sep 1997 Chairman, chief executive and UK MD resign Oct 1997 Accounts adjustment of #14.1 million; rights issue approved; shares floated; interim #7.9 million pre-tax loss; group finance director resigns Dec 1997 Group director of marketing and services and group strategic marketing director made redundant
Jan 1998 More redundancies, including sales manager of Azlan Express
Feb 1998 Profit warning issued Mar 1998 MD of training resigns.
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