The UK’s Serious Fraud Office (SFO) has closed its long-running corruption investigations into Rio Tinto and Eurasian Natural Resources Corporation (ENRC), the agency said today.
The prosecutor opened an investigation in 2017 into “suspected corruption” while doing business in Guinea.
But in an update to its case page for mining giant Rio Tinto today, the agency said that “following our latest review of the investigation, we concluded that it is not in the public interest to proceed with a prosecution in the UK and closed our case.”
“As a responsible prosecutor we must ensure all our cases meet the stringent evidence and public interest tests set by the Code for Crown Prosecutors,” it said.
It added that it will “continue to support” he Australian Federal Police, which is continuing its probe. US agencies are also understood to be continuing their investigations.
Rio Tinto acknowledged the SFO’s update, and said it was “committed to conducting business to the highest standards of integrity.”
It made a similar update to its case page for Kazakh miner ENRC, which it began investigating back in 2013.
It was investigating “the suspected payment of bribes by the company and individuals connected to it to secure access to lucrative mining contracts in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) between 2009 and 2012”.
But it said today that it has now closed the case after concluding it had “insufficient admissible evidence to prosecute”.
“We conducted a comprehensive investigation spanning multiple jurisdictions to examine the alleged conduct and exhausted all reasonable lines of enquiry,” the SFO said. “We would like to sincerely thank everyone who has co-operated with our investigation.”
A spokesperson for ENRC said it was “pleased that the SFO has finally closed its investigation and that the SFO is taking no further action”.
Jeremy Summers, a business crime lawyer at Osborne Clarke, said the closure of the ENRC case “brings an end an all too unhappy period for the SFO”.
He said getting this legacy issue out of the way will hopefully the new incoming director of the, Nick Ephgrave, when he takes over from Lisa Osofsky.
“It is vitally important that the SFO recovers its mojo and is given the resource by government to do so,” he added.
Barry Vitou, a partner at law firm HFW, agreed that it will leave a “clean slate” for Ephgrave when he starts next month.
But Vitou highlighted that these cases have been running for years, leaving him to ask: “why has it taken so long and how much money has been wasted?”