SFO denies Tchenguiz case is stunt

THE Serious Fraud Office (SFO) hit back at claims that its raid on Robert and Vincent Tchenguiz was a “publicity stunt” designed to bolster the reputation of the threatened body.

A spokesman for SFO director Richard Alderman said: “There is some suggestion that we have taken this action to put ourselves in a better position for the new serious fraud and crime landscape that is to come. I can say there is no connection at all. Operations of this kind take a lot of planning. It also took the cooperation of authorities in Iceland to mount this case.”

The embattled billionaire brothers have seen their Peverel Group property management business fall into administration after Bank of America Merrill Lynch recalled a £125m loan following the SFO raid of their businesses earlier this month.

The two men were arrested with seven others on 9 March but were released the same day without charge. The raid was part of the SFO’s investigation into the collapse of Icelandic bank Kaupthing. The raid harked back to the body’s most high-profile cases in the late 1980s and 1990s such as the Guinness affair, Barlow Clowes and Polly Peck. Robert Tchenguiz said the SFO probe was “designed to generate maximum publicity for its own ends given its uncertain future.” The coalition has threatened to merge the SFO with other fraud bodies.