Tchenguiz: SFO admits to errors in case

Steve Dinneen
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VINCENT Tchenguiz’s war with the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) may not be over but forcing the watchdog to admit to errors over his controversial arrest represents a major battle won.

Vincent Tchenguiz was arrested in March over his exposure to the collapsed Icelandic bank Kaupthing but has always maintained his innocence.

The Iranian-born property magnate was questioned for nine hours, along with his brother Robert and seven other people, after 135 police officers swooped on various premises across London. The brothers were later released without charge but the SFO has continued its investigation.

Tchenguiz is suspected of inflating the value of companies used as collateral for a £100m loan from Kaupthing, which he denies. He pledged the firms as collateral on his brother’s spiralling debt with the bank, in which he was both a major stakeholder and client.

In an interview with City A.M. in the wake of his arrest Tchenguiz cast doubt on the validity of the warrants, claiming the papers served actually referred to a second office nearby.

He also claimed the SFO had raided his premises before gathering all the facts, saying: “The way the investigation was conducted was incorrect. It was too fast, too quick, too early and too much damage was done.”

Tchenguiz had demanded a judicial review in which he said he could prove the raid was carried out without due process. In a statement released yesterday Tchenguiz claimed the SFO has now requested that he withdraw his application.

The SFO’s case against Tchenguiz had already taken a blow after the tycoon settled his bitter legal dispute with Kaupthing’s administrators in September. Tchenguiz had been suing the bank for £1.5bn, claiming it had misrepresented its parlous financial state. The bank had been counter suing.

Yesterday’s decision comes just months after the SFO sensationally dropped a two-and-a-half-year probe into collapsed hedge fund Weavering Capital.

Tchenguiz was arrested the day before he was due to host a glitzy party on his yacht in Cannes. While the saga is not yet over, tonight he has some reason to celebrate.