This is more than in any recent year, and up from 64 cases in 2016 and 47 in 2015. ØKOKRIM provides support to both the financial crime sections of the 12 new police districts and to law enforcement abroad. Seven of the cases in 2017 involved suspected corruption, while fraud and embezzlement cases make up the largest category with 15 cases. 44 letters of request from 19 different countries were received in 2017, and we expect 2018 to be another record year.
ØKOKRIM opened investigations in more new cases (16) than in the two preceding years, and the number of indictments and fines issued in lieu of prosecution (44) has not been matched since 2011. The conviction rate (84 per cent) was slightly higher than the average for the last five years, and the financial sanctions (confiscation, compensation, fines and legal costs) totalled NOK 180.4 million, which is slightly more than ØKOKRIM's annual budget. The number of suspicious transaction reports from entities subject to reporting duties has increased over the last two years, a development we assume has been spurred by raised awareness and knowledge among the reporting entities.
ØKOKRIM must strive for continuous improvement, and in 2017 we have worked to follow up the lessons learned from the internal and external evaluations of the Transocean case. Although this is an individual case of a special nature, we are working to ensure that the lessons learned raise the general quality of our criminal case processing, an important effort which will continue in 2018.
The average case processing time in 2017 was 560 days, far more than we can be satisfied with. The reasons are complex: several lengthy investigations were completed last year, and cases involving many processes and investigative steps abroad take more time than other cases. For instance, getting a reply to a letter of request can take more than a year. However, it is important for the state of the evidence, the effect of the penalty and, not least, the persons and companies implicated, that investigations are as speedy as possible. Our aim is an average case processing time of less than 350 days, a target we achieved in the three preceding years.
In May last year, ØKOKRIM pointed out that the proposed reorganisation of the police specialist agencies by a government-appointed commission is unlikely to strengthen the efforts to combat financial and environmental crime. In December 2007 the Ministry of Justice and Public Security decided not to pursue a new reorganisation process in the police.
ØKOKRIM’s strength lies in the combination of three factors: Firstly, cross-disciplinary investigation teams with cutting-edge expertise, led by the same prosecutors that will present the case in court. Secondly, a dedicated focus on serious financial and environmental crime. And thirdly, resources that are exclusively assigned to fight such crime and that cannot be diverted to other law-enforcement tasks. In addition, ØKOKRIM possesses sufficient strength to handle cases involving high-level executives and officials.
These advantages will also provide added value to the financial crime sections in the 12 new police districts. ØKOKRIM is dedicated to working with the police districts with an aim to significantly strengthen the overall efforts to combat financial and environmental crime.
Director of ØKOKRIM Trond Eirik Schea