Serious Fraud Office ends probe into banknote maker De La Rue

Edmund Heaphy
Finance and news reporter
The UK's new polymer £20 note, which recently entered circulation, is made by De La Rue. (Leon Neal/WPA Pool/Getty Images)

Embattled passport and banknote maker De La Rue (DLAR.L) said on Tuesday that the UK’s Serious Fraud Office (SFO) had concluded a year-long probe into “suspected corruption” relating to its business in South Sudan, and will take no further action.

“De La Rue is pleased that the SFO has closed its investigation and that the SFO is taking no further action in respect of this matter,” the company said in a statement.

In a separate statement, the SFO said that, after an “extensive investigation and a thorough and detailed review of the available evidence,” the case did not meet the test for prosecution.

In July 2019, De La Rue disclosed that the SFO had opened the probe into its affairs in South Sudan. In 2011, the firm spent six months designing and manufacturing the country’s new currency.

READ MORE: UK employers have slashed 600,000 staff since March

De La Rue has been at the centre of several probes by the SFO, including a 2010 investigation into the falsification of banknote quality certificates by employees.

It is the largest commercial printer of passports in the world, and has designed around a third of the banknotes in circulation globally.

The South Sudan probe was just one of a number of setbacks for De La Rue in recent years.

The company, which has issued a series of stark profit warnings, last year lost the contract to print UK passports.

French-Dutch competitor Gemalto was picked for the 10-year, £490m contract. The government later said that Gemalto would also manufacture the post-Brexit blue passports.

READ MORE: European stocks surge after US Federal Reserve move calms markets

Former chief executive Martin Sutherland demanded that then-prime minister Theresa May visit the company’s factory to outline why her government made the decision to “offshore” the manufacturing of the British passport.

Under new chief executive Clive Vacher, the company in February unveiled an “extensive” three-year cost-cutting plan, noting that it hoped to save £35m ($45m) per year from the second half of its current financial year.

De La Rue said that it was targeting cost savings in its currency division. The company, which prints Bank of England banknotes, designed the polymer material and technology used in the new £20 note featuring artist JMW Turner.