Judge slams SFO incompetence in Tchenguiz case

THE Serious Fraud Office (SFO) was yesterday denied more time to prepare for a trial over its handling of the 2011 arrests of real estate investors Vincent and Robert Tchenguiz.

The high court judge, who ruled the trial should go ahead on 22 May as planned, criticised the SFO for its confession that it did not have a clear record of the information it used to obtain search warrants against the Tchenguiz brothers.

SFO’s legal representative James Eadie QC admitted that “there isn’t a record of precisely what information or documentation was relied upon by the team,” adding: “there isn’t a clear, contemporaneous record of what was and wasn’t relied upon.”

High court judge Sir John Thomas called this “sheer incompetence”.

Lord Justice Thomas criticised the SFO, saying the warrants were “issued in a blaze of publicity a year ago” and calling for the watchdog’s director Richard Alderman to “burn the midnight oil” and cancel trips abroad in order to put together a file of source.

The SFO admitted in February it had “inadvertently miscast” information to obtain warrants to search the Tchenguiz brothers’ homes and offices last March.