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UK's Serious Fraud Office may launch RBS criminal probe -report

A logo of the Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) is reflected in the window of a branch office in London November 1, 2013. REUTERS/Luke MacGregor
A logo of the Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) is reflected in the window of a branch office in London November 1, 2013. REUTERS/Luke MacGregor

(Reuters) - Britain's Serious Fraud Office is considering the possibility of launching a criminal investigation into allegations that Royal Bank of Scotland mistreated struggling small businesses, the Financial Times reported on Tuesday, citing five people familiar with the matter.

RBS has been accused by government adviser Lawrence Tomlinson of pushing struggling small firms into its "turnaround" unit, so it could charge higher fees and interest, and take control of their assets.

"The only thing we're saying is that we're aware of the issue and we are monitoring developments," a spokeswoman for the Serious Fraud Office said.

The Financial Times said that the SFO has conducted interviews with former executives of UK businesses affected by RBS's Global Restructuring Group. The business manages the bank's riskier loans.

A spokeswoman for RBS declined to comment.

RBS on Monday appointed law firm Clifford Chance to conduct an inquiry into the allegations. Business Secretary Vince Cable has demanded an urgent response from the bank and Britain's financial regulator.

(Reporting by Karen Rebelo in Bangalore; Editing by Steve Orlofsky)

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