SFO confirms investigation into HP's Autonomy deal - but has its probe already been compromised?

The UK's Serious Fraud Office (SFO) has warned that its probe into the alleged irregularities surrounding Hewlett-Packard's controversial Autonomy acquisition could be seen as compromised, because of the agency's use of an Autonomy software product called Introspection.

"The SFO is keen to ensure that there is now no conflict of interest or perception of such a conflict, and it is obliged as a first step to make inquiries to ensure that it can continue as the investigating body," the UK corruption watchdog said, according to the Telegraph.

The SFO disclosed details of its investigation into Autonomy's purported accounting improprieties earlier in the week, joining the UK Financial Reporting Council and the US Department of Justice.

An SFO spokesperson confirmed that the agency had commenced its probe in February 2013, after HP provided it with the necessary evidence in late-2012; however, the agency refused to disclose the identity of any individuals being examined.

The SFO maintains that just because a criminal probe has started, "[it] does not mean that individuals are guilty of a crime or indeed that a crime has been committed."

HP acquired Autonomy in August 2011 for over $10.2 billion (£6.4 billion). The Palo Alto, California-based tech giant later alleged that Autonomy managers misquoted the firm's annual performance, resulting in a write-down that cost HP a whopping $8.8 billion (£5.5 billion).

Mike Lynch, the founder and former CEO of Autonomy, has dismissed the allegations.