The Serious Fraud Office (SFO) has won a bid to make former FTSE 100 company Eurasian Natural Resources Corporation (ENRC) hand over documents it claimed were covered by legal privilege.
Mrs Justice Andrews ruled in London’s High Court in favour of the fraud agency with regard to three of four categories of document, as well as refusing ENRC permission to appeal the ruling.
ENRC claimed the documents were protected under legal privilege. Legal professional privilege allows lawyers to advise clients on potential litigation without that advice later having to be disclosed.
However, the SFO successfully argued the majority of documents were not covered by legal privilege.
The case could set an important precedent for the SFO, which has faced difficulties gaining access to documents claimed to be under legal privilege in earlier cases.
The Kazakh miner no longer exists as a listed company, having been delisted from the London Stock Exchange and taken private in 2013. A separate private company, Eurasian Resources Group, now exists.
The SFO opened a case against ENRC in April 2013. The firm is still under investigation over allegations it paid bribes to secure business.
The ruling, which was made on Monday, was only revealed on Tuesday after reporting restrictions were lifted.
A spokesman for ENRC stated: “We are very surprised by this ruling and we will appeal today’s decision because the effect of this judgement is that a party who wishes to consult a lawyer in relation to an SFO dawn raid or criminal investigation is not entitled to the protections afforded by litigation privilege.”
The SFO declined to comment.