Former LibDem leader Sir Nick Clegg requested a briefing on a probe into mining giant Eurasian Natural Resources Corporation (ENRC) while deputy prime minister, just a few weeks before his lawyer wife became involved in work with the company, a document filed to a US court alleges.
The document is an application for a discovery order against Clegg, now a US resident, in ongoing litigation between ENRC and its former legal adviser, international firm Dechert.
According to the 'application for discovery for use in a foreign proceeding' filed at the US District Court for the Northern District of California, a Serious Fraud Office official wrote to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in December 2011. The letter was apparently in response to a request by Clegg to the FCO for a briefing into 'any investigation by the SFO' into ENRC, in anticipation of a possible question to the deputy prime minister.
Former Dechert partner Miriam Gonzalez Durantez, who is Nick Clegg’s wife, became involved in the firm’s work with ENRC the following month, the application states. It goes on to note that the US and UK enjoy a very good diplomatic relationship and there is 'no reason to believe that the UK courts would interpose any sort of objection to a district court ordering discovery'. It states that the correspondence sought ‘clearly falls outside the scope of Clegg’s performance of his ministerial duties’ and is thus outside the scope of UK public interest immunity.
Clegg, who was deputy PM between 2010 and 2015, now lives in California, where he is vice president of global affairs at Facebook.
Applying for Clegg to be subpoenaed, Beverley Hills and Madison Avenue firm Harder LLP states that: ‘Documents sought are within his possession, custody, and control and are thus within the jurisdiction of this court and may not be within the jurisdiction of the UK courts.’
The court document also refers to a ‘whistleblower’s letter’ sent to the SFO in 2012 in which allegations were made about another Dechert partner, Neil Gerrard, and his relationship with the SFO. The court document states that, according to the letter, he [Gerrard] had claimed that via Gonzalez Durantez he had ‘direct access’ to Clegg and other heads of European governments.
‘ENRC seeks testimony and discovery sought by this application from Clegg to establish whether Gerrard abused his relationship with Clegg with respect to ENRC, proof of which would constitute significant and relevant evidence for the purpose of the claim ENRC has issued against Dechert LLP,’ the document states.
ENRC, which denies wrongdoing, has been the subject of an SFO investigation since 2011. No charges have been brought.
Dechert, which denies any wrongdoing, declined to comment further. A spokesperson for the firm previously told the Gazette: ‘We look forward to addressing in full the unfounded allegations made against us.’