UK’s Serious Fraud Office to face Kazakh miner ENRC in court as decade-long legal fight continues
The UK’s Serious Fraud Office (SFO) will today face Kazakhstani mining company ENRC in London’s High Court, as it continues its fight against the British government agency almost 10 years after it first launched an investigation into the former FTSE 100 firm.
The SFO first launched its investigation into ENRC in April 2013 in relation to fraud, corruption, and bribery allegations surrounding the mining company’s activities in Kazakhstan and Africa but has so far failed to secure any convictions against the Kazakh firm. In the 10 years following the launch of the initial probe, ENRC has pursued the agency through Britain’s courts.
The High Court will now seek to determine whether the SFO’s investigation into ENRC would have ever taken place if ex-City lawyer Neil Gerrard – US law firm Dechert’s ex-head of white-collar crime – hadn’t leaked the mining firm’s confidential information to the fraud investigator.
The trial will also decide whether the SFO and Dechert should be liable to pay ENRC damages. ENRC is seeking more than £21m from the SFO and Dechert over claims it was unnecessarily forced to pay out millions in legal fees and carry the costs of undertaking extra work, court documents show.
ENRC’s claim comes after High Court judge David Waksman in May 2022 ruled Gerrard breached his duties by leaking ENRC’s confidential information to the SFO and three British newspapers, while carrying out an internal probe on behalf of the Kazakh mining firm.
Judge Waksman ruled Gerrard leaked ENRC’s information in order to bring in more work and maximize his fees. The High Court judge also ruled SFO officials had acted “recklessly” by accepting the leaked documents from Gerrard.
However, Judge Waksman largely cleared the SFO of wrongdoing, as it determined the fraud investigator had not colluded with Gerrard to help maximise his fees, but that it had instead engaged in “bad faith opportunism” while taking information from the ex-Dechert lawyer.
The judge also allowed the SFO to continue using evidence it gained from Gerrard in its ongoing investigation into ENRC. Now, ENRC’s lawsuit could add to the troubles the UK investigator faces, in forcing it to pay out millions.
Dechert declined to comment. The SFO and ENRC were approached by City A.M. for comment.