A Serious Fraud Office (SFO) arrest warrant for the chief executive of mining company Eurasian Resources Group (ERG) has been withdrawn, sparking criticism from his legal representatives.
In a statement, representatives of Benedikt Sobotka said the SFO had written to Westminster Magistrates’ Court to ask for its application to be withdrawn.
Kevin Roberts, partner at international firm Morrison & Foerster, who represents Sobotka, said: ‘The behaviour of the SFO has been disappointing. There was clearly no reasonable basis for a warrant in the first place which seemed more designed to intimidate the CEO of a multinational company rather than to progress matters and address the key issues.’
An SFO spokesperson told the Gazette it had instead applied to Westminster Magistrates’ Court to issue a summons for Sobotka to appear on a date to be determined. ‘We aren’t commenting any further as this is still operational,’ the spokesperson added.
The SFO issued the warrant last month, saying it was taking the ’rare but necessary step’ because Sobotka had failed to appear for questioning in an ongoing investigation. ERG subsidiary, the Eurasian Natural Resources Corporation (ENRC), is at the centre of SFO allegations of bribery and corruption.
The SFO’s investigation relates to ENRC’s acquisition of substantial mineral assets. ENRC strongly denies wrongdoing and, as yet, no charges have been brought. The SFO had previously said Sobotka is not a suspect in the investigation.
Meanwhile, a separate battle between the SFO and ENRC which surrounds legal professional privilege has been heard at the Court of Appeal. ENRC is appealing a High Court order which supported the SFO’s position that confidential documents ENRC prepared for its own internal investigation should not be covered by privilege.
The Law Society intervened in the case in support of privilege. A judgment is expected later this year.