A court has dismissed a £160m Serious Fraud Office charge of conspiracy involving a retired consultant solicitor.

Mr Justice Hickinbottom (pictured) dismissed the charge of conspiracy to defraud against five defendants at Cardiff Crown Court, including retired consultant solicitor Eric Evans. A sixth defendant who did not participate in the dismissal application also benefited from the decision.

The defendants had set up a complex commercial transaction involving opencast mining sites and restoration obligations. Another defendant, Stephen Davies QC, had advised on the legality of the scheme.

Central to the scheme was South Wales mining company Celtic Energy, whose 100% shareholder Richard Walters and finance director Leighton Humphreys had also been charged.

Hickinbottom said: ‘I have come to the firm conclusion that a jury could not properly convict the defendants and the charges cannot properly proceed.’

Phil Williams, consultant litigation executive at fraud and crime specialists Blackfords - which represented Evans - said: ‘[We] are delighted on behalf of our client Eric Evans.’

Blackfords instructed Patrick Harrington QC from Farrar’s Building, Chancery QC John de Waal from Hardwicke and Ben Douglas-Jones from 5 Paper Buildings.