ENRC drags former UK lawmaker Clegg into legal dispute linked to bribery probe

11 February 2019 00:00 by Martin Coyle

Eurasian Resources Group's UK unit has filed a US court claim, seeking documents from former British lawmaker Nick Clegg as part of its ongoing negligence dispute with law firm Dechert.

The action is linked to the Serious Fraud Office’s continuing bribery probe into the mining company's subsidiary, Eurasian National Resources Corporation.

In a filing lodged at a court in California on Friday, and seen by MLex, ENRC is seeking “relevant evidence” from Clegg as part of its claim against its former lawyers Dechert and a senior partner, Neil Gerrard.

Clegg is head of global policy and communications at Facebook, and now lives in California. He was formerly a Liberal Democrat politician in the UK and served as deputy prime minister in the party's coalition government with the Conservative Party from 2010 to 2015.

ENRC is suing Dechert and Gerrard for an unspecified amount, claiming that they acted negligently when the firm was hired to carry out an internal investigation into allegations of corruption at the company. ENRC claims that the firm milked it for millions of pounds. Dechert and Gerrard deny the allegations.

The California claim is linked to Clegg's wife, lawyer Miriam Gonzalez Durantez, who was a colleague of Gerrard while he was at Dechert.

ENRC said Gerrard claimed he had “direct access” to Clegg through Gonzalez Durantez while he was in government, and that Gerrard claimed he was able to influence government policy.

The miner said it was seeking information from Clegg, saying that as deputy prime minister he wanted a briefing on the SFO’s investigation into ENRC.

In its claim, ENRC pointed to a December 2011 letter sent by Mark Thompson, the SFO’s current chief operating officer, to the UK’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office. The letter was a response to the office's request for a briefing on the SFO probe, in anticipation of a possible question from Clegg.

ENRC said it was seeking documents and “testimony” from Clegg, in order to establish whether Gerrard “abused his relationship” with Clegg in order to support its claim against Dechert and Gerrard in the UK courts.

A California judge is expected to rule on the claim in coming weeks. If it is granted, it could see Clegg giving evidence in a US court.

— SFO probe —

In September 2018, the miner won an appeal in the High Court, overturning a previous ruling that ordered the company to hand over documents linked to the probe. The company claimed they were covered by legal privilege.

In December, ENRC filed the latest salvo in its ongoing dispute with the SFO over its handling of the agency’s corruption probe, which began in 2013. The company denies any wrongdoing.

ENRC accuses the SFO of wrongly keeping hold of documents that Gerrard handed to the agency in 2013. It claims the documents were protected by legal privilege, and that they should have been securely stored and not used as part of the SFO’s investigation into the company.

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