ENRC juvenile trial ignores evidence, UK SFO says London trial

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A sign is displayed in an unmarked Major Fraud Office vehicle parked outside a building, in Mayfair, central London, March 9, 2011. REUTERS / Andrew Winning

A London lawsuit against the UK’s Serious Fraud Office (SFO) by ENRC, a mining company at the center of an eight-year corruption probe, lacks evidence and should never have been brought, said Wednesday an agency lawyer in court.

Simon Colton told the High Court in London that ENRC could now regret sharing information with prosecutors as it sought to avoid a criminal investigation by pledging to be open and transparent about ‘an internal investigation about seven years ago.

“But a change in policy and regrets do not justify the present demand,” he said, as the OFS began his defense in the high-profile trial, which is expected to last 11 weeks.

The OFS opened an investigation into ENRC in 2013 into allegations of fraud, bribery and corruption related to the acquisition of mining assets in Africa. The investigation is still open, but no charges have been filed against the company or current or former employees.

ENRC is asking for public justification and damages of several million pounds.

He alleges that former Dechert attorney Neil Gerrard, hired in 2010 to conduct an internal investigation following a whistleblower report, conspired with SFO contacts to harm his client, expand or extend his own memory to increase its fees and disclose privileged and sensitive information. Read more

A lawyer for Dechert and Gerrard dismissed the allegations, saying ENRC misrepresented documents and events, ignored probability and moved from suspicion to prosecution. Read more

ENRC, co-founded by three Kazakh billionaire businessmen and the Kazakh government, also accuses the OFS of wrongdoing in the civil service.

He alleges the agency knew Gerrard was releasing sensitive information without authorization, but instigated and abetted him in an effort to land a high-level corporate settlement or lawsuit.

Colton said ENRC had brought “the most serious allegations” against seven senior SFO officers and was seeking to widen its net because his case only made sense if there had been a “conspiracy of silence” .

Nicholas Purnell, an attorney for Dechert, said earlier that ENRC senior management both authorized and understood the need for Gerrard to disclose information to the OFS to avoid the possibility of a raid, although some within ENRC disagreed.

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