KBR challenges UK fraud agency's powers to demand documents overseas

26 March 2018 1:21pm
Union Flag in Wind

23 March 2018. By Martin Coyle and Ben Lucas.

US oil engineering and construction company KBR has issued a court challenge to the limits of British fraud prosecutors' investigative powers, MLex has learned.

The company's British subsidiary is currently being investigated by the Serious Fraud Office over its links to Monaco-based oil services company Unaoil, which is the focus of a sprawling bribery probe.

KBR has filed a judicial review against the SFO at the High Court in London, which is set to be heard on April 17. These types of proceedings allow companies or individuals to challenge the legality of a government agency's actions.

The action centers on whether the SFO has the power to confiscate documents held overseas, MLex understands.

Section 2 of the Criminal Justice Act 1987 allows the agency to search property and require persons to answer questions and produce documents relating to its investigation.

In April last year, when the SFO opened its investigation, KBR revealed that it had been served with a notice under these so-called Section 2 powers. It said at the time that it was cooperating through "voluntary submission of information and compliance with formal document requests".

This is not the first time that the SFO has been challenged over the jurisdictional boundaries of the Section 2 powers.

In January last year Unaoil executive Saman Ahsani failed in a bid to force a review of Section 2 after the SFO ordered him to hand over documents located abroad. His request to be allowed to challenge the order was rejected by a London court.

The SFO declined to comment today, while KBR didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.

	Eliot Gao