The Serious Fraud Office (SFO) said today it has issued an arrest warrant for the Chief executive of Luxembourg-based Eurasian Resources Group after he failed to appear for questioning.
The fraud squad wanted to speak to Benedikt Sobotka, 37, as part of its investigation into corruption at Eurasian Natural Resources Corporation (ENRC) and related companies.
The SFO said it issued the arrest warrant after Sobotka failed to appear for questioning in London on 26 June this year.
He is now wanted by the SFO for the offence of failing to comply with a direction contrary to the Criminal Justice Act 1987.
The SFO said an arrest warrant was a “rare but necessary step to ensure that Mr Sobotka is brought before the court”.
Sobotka's lawyer, Kevin Roberts a partner at Morrison & Foerster, said today: “The arrest warrant against Mr Sobotka by the SFO comes as a surprise.
"It is neither justified nor necessary, as Mr Sobotka has always been ready to assist the SFO’s investigation into ENRC, to the extent that he can. Mr Sobotka was never an employee of ENRC. He was appointed as CEO of ERG, a different corporate entity not under investigation, three years after the period being investigated by the SFO. Mr Sobotka nevertheless agreed to attend an interview voluntarily as requested by the SFO, in his capacity as a witness.
"Regrettably, the prosecutor has continuously and inexplicably refused to clarify whether Mr Sobotka would appear in his personal capacity or as a corporate representative of ERG, in which case – as the SFO knows – he would require approval from ERG’s board, as per his professional and fiduciary obligations. The SFO’s actions have trapped Mr Sobotka into potentially breaching his obligations to his employer, which is unacceptable. They appear to be part of an unprecedented and extraordinary attempt to intimidate a CEO of a multinational group, after his raising of legitimate questions in relation to the steps taken by the SFO.
"On the basis that the SFO clarifies the matter, Mr Sobotka remains willing to assist in his personal capacity, or seek the necessary corporate authority to do so.”
The SFO’s investigation into ENRC is ongoing and focuses on allegations of bribery, fraud and corruption.