Mobile operator O2 is the subject of an official investigation by the UK’s Serious Fraud Office (SFO) it has been reported.

The Sunday Telegraph at the weekend noted the admission was buried in a Financial Statement document concerning the merger of O2 and Virgin Media, which was officially approved by the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) in May this year.

The merger, which had been proposed back in May 2020, will combine Virgin Media’s broadband, TV, mobile and landline services with the mobile operations of O2.

SFO investigation

The 136 page financial document about the merger revealed the SFO investigation on page 53.

From time to time, we have become involved in litigation relating to claims arising out of our operations in the normal course of business,” the document states.

O2 has been addressing a request for disclosure made by governmental authorities which is related to possible violations of anti-bribery laws and regulations,” it said. “O2 continues to co-operate with the governmental authorities investigating this matter which is still ongoing.”

Whilst it is not possible at this time to predict the full scope or duration of this matter or its eventual outcome, O2 was able to make a reasonable estimate of the outcome, and recorded an accrual during 2019, which is included in our statement of financial position as of 30 June 2021,” it said.

Additional disclosures of the matters required by International Accounting Standard (IAS) 37 have not been provided as permitted by IAS 37 para 92 as the directors believe that further disclosure will be seriously prejudicial to future developments on this matter,” it concluded.

Customer payments

The investigation allegedly centres over alleged payments made by O2 executives to customers.

The Telegraph reported that there had long been rumours of such activity, after a management shakeup at the operator in 2017 and a shift away from third party retail towards direct sales channels.

It is not clear at the time of writing about possible timeframe for a conclusion of the SFO investigation, which seems to have been ongoing for a while now.

Tom Jowitt

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelancer and long standing contributor to Silicon UK. He is also a bit of a Lord of the Rings nut...

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