Fresh from its court victory over professional privilege, mining company Eurasian Natural Resources Corporation (ENRC) has demanded a judicial review of the Serious Fraud Office’s (SFO) long-running investigation into alleged criminal activities.
ENRC, in a document seen by the Gazette, has asked for an independent law firm to review the SFO’s handling of evidence. The claim also demands a review of alleged unauthorised contact between the SFO and ENRC’s former lawyers Dechert. The alleged misplacing by the SFO’s former lead investigator of a notebook, in which he was said to have concluded that there was no basis for SFO action against ENR, is cited as one of the grounds for a JR.
The document, prepared by ENRC’s solicitors Hogan Lovells, also criticises the SFO’s decision to choose Eversheds Sutherland as the external investigating team – a solicitors’ firm it says has already represented the SFO.
The SFO has yet to comment on the request for a JR but earlier this week it confirmed it would not be appealing against a Court of Appeal ruling that said it was wrong to request documents prepared by ENRC and its solicitors for an internal investigation - a decision which the Law Society said upheld the importance of privileged material.
The ‘unauthorised contact’ between the SFO and Dechert relates to a period towards the end of 2010 and early 2011 when Dechert was advising ENRC over self-reporting allegations to the SFO. Earlier this year ENRC filed a negligence claim against the firm.
The principal allegation - which Dechert firmly denies – is that a partner at the firm Neil Gerrard leaked information to a US-based reporter for the Sunday Times. Subsequent reports in that newspaper lead the SFO to launch a formal investigation.
A Dechert spokesperson told the Gazette at the time: ‘We look forward to addressing in full the unfounded allegations made against us.’
ENRC strenuously denies any wrongdoing.