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SFO expands use of AI after successful trial in Rolls-Royce investigation

Serious Fraud Office builds on trials of artificial intelligence in criminal investigations by rolling out a new data management platform

The Serious Fraud Office (SFO) is expanding its use of artificial intelligence (AI) to help solve cases after successfully putting the technology to the test in a major investigation at Rolls-Royce.

The government department, which processes large amounts of data to detect major frauds, used iManage’s RAVN AI bot during a four-year bribery and corruption investigation at the firm.

The SFO used RAVN to search documents for legal professional privilege content, which is protected communication between lawyers and clients, and the bot was able to do this 2,000 times faster than a human could.

This was the first time in the UK that AI had been deployed in a criminal case, and in January 2017, Rolls-Royce agreed to pay the SFO a settlement of £497.25m.

Following the success of this case, the SFO plans to deploy the Axcelerate AI tool from data management systems provider OpenText alongside RAVN this month to speed up the time it takes for its investigations teams to categorise documents, identify patterns and remove duplicate data.

Ben Denison, chief technology officer at the SFO, said Axcelerate will help to improve the organisation’s efficiency and productivity.

“AI technology will help us work smarter, faster and be more effective in prosecuting economic crime,” he said.

“Innovations like OpenText’s Axcelerate will help our investigators to sift through the hundreds of thousands of documents we receive every day and focus on delivering justice sooner, at a significantly lower cost.”

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The tool means the SFO’s investigations teams can spend more time building cases, rather than sifting through and organising the data associated with them.

“Allowing our legal teams to work and process data faster is key to holding those involved in economic crime to account,” said Denison.

Mark Barrenechea, vice-chair, CEO and CTO of OpenText, said the SFO is “leading the way in the use of digital technology to investigate economic crimes” and the new platform will help to push this forward.

“Advances in AI technology, the ability to review and analyse vast amounts of information, and provide timely and meaningful insights will forever change the way the legal profession operates,” he added. 

The SFO said that in the future, the Axcelerate platform will be able to conduct searches based on relevance, and remove unrelated documents from investigations.

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