November 6, 2019 / 6:26 PM / 6 days ago

London court rejects ENRC's attempt to challenge UK Fraud Office

LONDON (Reuters) - A London judge has dismissed ENRC’s request for a legal challenge of the UK Serious Fraud Office’s (SFO) six-year investigation into allegations of fraud, bribery and corruption at the mining company.

The SFO confirmed on Wednesday that Eurasian Natural Resources Corporation (ENRC) had lost an attempt to seek a judicial review to force the SFO to reinstate an independent examination of one of its longest-running cases.

ENRC, a company co-founded by three billionaire Kazakh businessmen and the Kazakh government that has levelled allegations of potential collusion and cover-up against the SFO, said it was disappointed and was considering appealing.

“In the meantime, ENRC is fortified by the ... court’s confirmation that, if and when the SFO takes further steps in its investigation, the SFO must properly take account of the very serious concerns ENRC has raised,” it stated.

ENRC last year demanded a judicial or independent review of the SFO’s investigation and last November the SFO brought in retired High Court judge David Calvert-Smith to run an independent slide rule over the case.

But in March, ENRC filed a separate $93 million-plus (£72.36 million) legal claim against the SFO for alleged wrongful conduct, alleging that SFO staff induced the miner’s former lawyers Dechert to act in breach of contract.

Dechert has denied wrongdoing. The firm declined to comment on Wednesday.

The lawsuit prompted the SFO to suspend the Calvert-Smith review. It argued in part that the review and ENRC’s lawsuit covered similar ground and that dealing with both would not be the best use of public funds or staff resources.

ENRC’s allegations against the SFO now look set to be dealt with in civil proceedings.

The SFO opened a criminal investigation into ENRC in 2013 over allegations of wrongdoing surrounding the acquisition of mineral assets in Africa. The company has denied any wrongdoing.

To date, the only person charged in the case is Anna Machkevitch, the daughter of one of ENRC’s founders.

Machkevitch, a director of London-based office administration services group ALM Services and the Machkevitch Foundation, was charged in June for failing to produce documents demanded by the SFO, an offence that can carry a prison sentence of up to six months and an unlimited fine.

She faces trial in January. The SFO has said she is not a suspect in the corruption investigation.

Reporting by Kirstin Ridley; Editing by Kirsten Donovan

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