ENRC lodges multi-million-pound court claim against SFO

02 Apr 2020 12:32 pm by Martin Coyle

Eurasian Resources Group's UK unit has filed a 70 million pound damages claim against the UK’s Serious Fraud Office over its on-going corruption probe into the Kazak mining company.

In a claim filed in London’s High Court this week, Eurasian Natural Resources Corporation said the fraud agency had induced ENRC’s former lawyer at Dechert and the law firm to act in breach of its “fiduciary duty” towards the company.

Dechert, and senior lawyer at the firm Neil Gerrard, previously represented the company in its action against the SFO.

ENRC has further brought a claim of misfeasance in public office against the SFO, stating that the agency failed to “act in accordance with its powers” and didn’t act independently and in good faith in its dealings with the company.

The SFO also failed to preserve evidence and didn’t respect ENRC’s “fundamental right” to legal professional privilege, which protects correspondence between lawyers and their clients, ENRC states.

The claim is the latest salvo between ENRC and the SFO since the fraud agency opened a probe into allegations of corruption in Africa and Kazakhstan in April 2013. The company denies the claims.

In court documents seen by MLex, ENRC states that prior to the SFO formally opening its probe, former SFO director Richard Alderman ordered that the investigation be kept “off the books” as it was “very messy.”

The claim also focuses on a missing notebook belonging to a former investigator at the SFO. ENRC claims that the book, which contained information about ENRC, was “deliberately destroyed” or “suppressed.”

ENRC further alleges that former SFO director David Green ignored a whistleblowing claim alleging criminal conduct by Gerrard and an SFO official known as “Dick.”

In addition to claiming millions of pounds in damages, the company is seeking a declaration that the SFO won’t use any confidential or privileged information belonging to ENRC that was disclosed by Dechert or Gerrard.

ENRC has lodged a separate claim against Dechert and Gerrard, claiming that both behaved negligently toward it. In a counter claim, the firm alleges that it was “too successful” in uncovering corrupt payments made by ENRC.

In a statement, Dechert said: “We stand by the work we did and look forward to the opportunity of defending it in open court. We emphatically reject any suggestion of an improper relationship between Dechert/Neil Gerrard and the SFO or that there was any unauthorised disclosure of information to or from the SFO.”

The SFO declined to comment.

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