SFO continues Tchenguiz case despite latest blow

THE SERIOUS Fraud Office (SFO) said yesterday it will not back down in its pursuit of property tycoon Robert Tchenguiz despite facing further embarrassment over its most high-profile case.

Search warrants used to raid the houses and offices of Tchenguiz and his brother Vincent in 2011 were deemed unlawful by the High Court, which ruled that the SFO had misrepresented facts when applying for them.

The SFO yesterday admitted to “serious mistakes” but said it would continue its investigation into 2009’s collapse of Icelandic bank Kaupthing “with renewed focus and vigour”.

The department has had to drop cases against Vincent Tchenguiz and two Kaupthing executives, Armann Thorvaldsson and Gudni Adalsteinsson, in recent weeks.

Robert Tchenguiz, who remains under investigation, called the SFO’s conduct “outrageous and unlawful” and said he would join his brother in filing claims against the department. The two are expected to claim up to £100m each.

The Tchenguiz brothers were arrested and their properties raided in a well-publicised dawn operation in March 2011 involving 135 officers and SFO staff. Kaupthing loaned the pair £180m months before it collapsed.

“When the SFO appeared at my home and offices at 6.30am in a blaze of ‘self-engendered publicity’ – to quote today’s judgment – I said their conduct was both outrageous and unlawful,” Robert Tchenguiz said in a statement.

“As a result of the SFO’s unlawful actions I and my family have suffered enormous damage, not least to my reputation. I now intend to pursue my claim in respect of the damages I have suffered as a result of the SFO’s illegal actions,” he added.

The SFO replied: “We note that the Court declined to consider the merits of the future of the investigation. The SFO will continue with the investigation with renewed focus and vigour.”

The department, which has come under increased scrutiny in recent months, is working with Icelandic authorities on its investigation into why large sums of money left Kaupthing before its collapse. The government had to compensate millions who had deposits in the bank.