On an irony scale of zero to Eliot Spitzer, where would you place this one?
From the FT:
The Serious Fraud Office has come under attack for making a secret £420,000 redundancy payment to its former chief executive, capping a year in which the UK anti-corruption prosecutor has has suffered sustained reputational damage.
Long running saga, this one. Following a ruling last month that Vincent Tchenguiz should not have been arrested on suspicion of defrauding Iceland’s Kaupthing, his brother Robert has now been formally cleared by the High Court in London.
The court has issued a “summary to assist the media.” It’s utterly baffling. Have a read. Read more
Even the Serious Fraud Office agree. Belatedly.
Statement out of Vincent Tchenguiz’s Consensus Business Group on Monday — he’s no longer being treated as a suspect in the SFO’s long running investigation into the collapse of Iceland’s Kaupthing. Click to read: Read more
Dominic Grieve, the Attorney-General, has ordered the first inquiry into the UK’s anti-fraud authority to help improve its operations only weeks after it was forced into a climbdown. The FT says it has learnt that Mr Grieve asked the head of the Crown Prosecution Service Inspectorate – the independent body that monitors the work of the CPS – to undertake a review of the Serious Fraud Office’s cases and the way it selects files to investigate, to begin next month. This will be the first time the SFO has been surveyed by the inspectorate, and comes as the agency is grappling with high-profile cases and sweeping new powers, while dealing with stringent budget cuts. Investigators suffered a serious blow in December when they were forced to admit to having made factual errors in the search warrant used to raid the offices of Vincent Tchenguiz, the property tycoon. Read more
The Serious Fraud Office intends to confiscate shareholder dividends paid by companies convicted of criminal offences, the FT says, after it won approval for a civil recovery order on Thursday against the principal shareholder of a company that had admitted corruption. Mabey Engineering Holding agreed to repay the £131,201 dividend it received from Mabey & Johnson, which built bridges in Iraq and admitted corruption and breaches of UN sanctions in 2009 . Two former Mabey & Johnson executives went to prison after the company reported their behaviour to the SFO. The agreement, approved by the High Court and seen by the FT, marks the first time that the SFO has tried to recover proceeds of crime by targeting dividends paid in the UK. While the sum confiscated by the SFO is relatively small, lawyers warned that the precedent it set was potentially huge.
A leading London-based businessman accused of bribery in Bahrain linked to contracts with Alcoa, the US aluminium group, has been arrested by the UK’s Serious Fraud Office, the FT reports. Victor Dahdaleh, who has British and Canadian nationality, was charged with corruption, conspiracy to corrupt, and acquiring and transferring criminal property in connection with alleged payments of bribes to officials of state-controlled Aluminium Bahrain during 2001-05. The SFO said some of the alleged payments “were in connection with contracts with a US company, Alcoa”, for supplies of alumina, from which aluminium is extracted. On his website, Mr Dahdaleh published a statement from his law firm Allen & Overy, saying he “believes the investigation into his affairs was flawed and that he has done absolutely nothing wrong”. Read more
The ousted chief executive of Olympushas taken his case to the UK’s white-collar crime agency while the Japanese camera maker said it could take legal action against him, the FT reports. Escalating tensions at Olympus are being presented by the company, which took the rare step of promoting a foreigner as president six months ago, as a clash of management styles. But Liverpool-born Michael Woodford has said that they reflect a deeper refusal by the Japanese group to accept questioning of payments relating to past deals. The public showdown began in July after Mr Woodford launched an independent investigationinto extremely generous payments made to advisers when Olympus bought Gyrus, a UK-listed medical equipment company, for $2.2bn in 2008. Investigations into these payments, independently carried out by PwC, were handed over to the Serious Fraud Office on Monday. The company’s shares were about 1 per cent lower in midday trade in Tokyo, and have lost 37 per cent in the prior two trading days, says Reuters.
Securities packaged by Deutsche Bank are among half a dozen deals being examined by Britain’s Serious Fraud Office as part of an evidence-gathering exercise into whether financial institutions fraudulently misrepresented deals to clients and counterparties in the UK, the FT reports. The SFO has spent the past two years looking into sales of asset-backed securities – bonds backed by the repayments on vast pools of loans such as mortgages – after consulting senior City figures about which areas the agency should be looking into after the financial crisis. The investigations come as Asian, European and US investment banks were last week sued by the US Federal Housing Finance Agency for allegedly mis-selling mortgage-backed securities. The FHFA is suing 17 financial institutions, including Nomura, Barclays and Bank of America, arguing that they mis-sold more than $100bn of securities. The SFO has yet to officially open an investigation into any company, but it is appealing for whistleblowers for the evidence it needs to bring any case. The agency could criminally prosecute a company or individuals or bring a civil recovery case if it can prove illegal activity. Read more
Securities packaged by Deutsche Bank are among half a dozen deals being examined by Britain’s Serious Fraud Office as part of an evidence-gathering exercise into whether financial institutions fraudulently misrepresented deals to clients and counterparties in the UK, the FT reports. The SFO has spent the past two years looking into sales of asset-backed securities – bonds backed by the repayments on vast pools of loans such as mortgages – after consulting senior City figures about which areas the agency should be looking into after the financial crisis. The SFO has yet to officially open an investigation into any company, but it is appealing for whistleblowers for the evidence it needs to bring any case. The agency could criminally prosecute a company or individuals or bring a civil recovery case if it can prove illegal activity. Goldman Sachs is another investment bank that the SFO is making inquiries into, including the so-called Timberwolf deal. Read more
You’ve read the story in the FT…
Lawyers acting for the UK arm of the collapsed Icelandic bank Kaupthing, which is at the centre of a fraud probe, have withdrawn a request to retail entrepreneur Kevin Stanford to repay nearly $2m (£1.2m) as part of efforts to recover funds owed to the bank…. Read more
You have to admire the chuzpah of the Sports Direct owner — he’s the one on the right by the way. Read more
From the Serious Fraud Office, Wednesday afternoon:
The Serious Fraud Office, having received complaints about the business activities of Mr Nicholas Levene, has now opened a formal criminal investigation. This also follows complaints received by the Metropolitan Police Service, with which the SFO has been liaising. Read more
The Serious Fraud Office has been called in to investigate the collapse of MG Rover more than four years after the carmaker went into administration. UK business secretary Lord Mandelson told the FT that he had an “obligation” to pass the investigation to the SFO following his review of the findings from a four-year independent inquiry. But the four executives in control of MG Rover at the time of its demise have accused him of using the probe as a ruse to forestall publication of the report, which is expected to be critical of the government. Read more