This post has been substantially revised in the wake of an internal discussion here at the FT…
Close readers will recall that just earlier this week we were pondering the case of one Richard Usher, formerly chief FX dealer for JP Morgan in London. His mangled remains were found under the proverbial publicity bus that is the official regulatory investigation into the supposed fixing of the daily WM/Reuters forex price fix, which is currently underway on both sides of the Atlantic. It seemed a shame to us that someone had been executed, professionally, for simply being in possession of an alleged Skype chat, therein containing some colourful banter. Especially when no evidence of said Skype chat had yet been presented.
It looked to us like someone, almost certainly in regulatory circles, was trading Usher’s name for political gain.
But now we’re confused. Read more
Is Vincent Tchenguiz the greatest legal mind of his generation? Almost certainly not. But his determination, evocative of a children’s game show contestant, is formidable.
Indeed, since being wrongfully collared by the SFO in early 2011 as part of their investigation into Kaupthing, the failed Icelandic bank, Tchenguiz has treated the hallowed workshop of British justice as his private version of Fun House, the 90s after-school TV hit that reflected a generation’s E-number giddiness. In the place of mulleted perma-enthusiast Pat Sharpe, a team of luxuriantly wigged QCs have watched Tchenguiz charge gleefully through the courts, snatching up legal goodies. Read more
Don’t ask the SFO, or accountants Grant Thornton, for that matter.
Here’s a long, angry letter sent by the Vincent Tchenquiz camp some months ago to Grant Thornton, forming part of the furious legal dispute between the Tchenguiz Brothers and the SFO.
At the bottom of page 19 you’ll find a section headed “Sainsbury’s proceeds.” It is allegedly the case that when the financial cops pounced — acting on information from GT, who were handling the unwinding of Iceland’s Kaupthing — neither the SFO or GT really understood how the modern stock market works. Read more
Not a good day for financial cops. Hot on the heels of the FSA losing what it probably thought was a slam-dunk insider dealing case, the SFO has now received a withering “Judgement on Costs’ over its toe-curling execution of the Tchenguiz case.
The brothers get substantially all their legal bills paid. Here’s the judgement. Click to read. Read more
An FT headline, a few days ago (on a decision last summer):
SFO opted against probe into Libor Read more
It’s difficult to know what to say about the Serious Fraud Office in the wake of its acknowledgement that its officers simply didn’t understand documents that patently cleared the property investor Vincent Tchenguiz of wrong-doing in the collapse of Iceland’s Kaupthing.
Apparently they were “very busy” at the time (Spring last year) and this is just a case of “human error.” 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.
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.
The UK’s Serious Fraud Office is examining whether to conduct its own investigation into the bribery allegations surrounding Bernie Ecclestone, the Formula One chief, who has admitted paying almost $23m to a German banker standing trial in Munich on corruption charges, reports the FT. Dominic Grieve, the attorney-general, confirmed the SFO’s involvement in a letter to his Labour counterpart, Emily Thornberry, saying the SFO was liaising with authorities in Germany to consider the allegations surrounding Mr Ecclestone, a British citizen, “and whether there is scope for an investigation”.
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.
The UK’s Serious Fraud Office on Wednesday arrested UK property entrepreneurs Robert and Vincent Tchenguiz and seven other people as investigators extended their probe into the 2008 collapse of Kaupthing, the Icelandic bank, reports the FT. More than 130 investigators staged dawn raids on eight homes and two London businesses, including the Mayfair offices of Rotch Property, the brothers’ investment vehicle. In a co-ordinated action, Icelandic police also arrested two men and searched two properties. No charges were filed. In a joint statement, the Tchenguizes said they were confident they would be cleared of any allegation of wrongdoing.” The brothers were released on Wednesday night and were free to travel, their spokesman said. As TheSource notes, “it’s a far cry from the heady days of the property boom” when they were “feted by the property industry as shrewd entrepreneurs”.
UK regulators are investigating KPMG over its audits for BAE Systems in relation to a long-running corruption probe into the European defence contractor, reports the FT. The UK’s Accountancy and Actuarial Discipline Board said on Monday it was examining a decade’s worth of KPMG’s audits – from 1997 to 2007 – in light of commissions paid by BAE to third-party agents and outside companies in arms deals. The probe threatens to reopen a damaging chapter in BAE’s history, eight months after the company paid nearly $450m to settle a transatlantic bribery investigation by the US Department of Justice and UK’s Serious Fraud Office.
British anti-corruption investigators were looking for evidence on Wednesday night from a series of raids and arrests in an expanding international probe into suspected bribery by Alstom, the French engineering group. The Serious Fraud Office said it had questioned three UK-based executives of the company – including the country head – and searched nine addresses in its biggest operation over alleged graft.
Breaking news on Wednesday — the UK’s Serious Fraud Office has arrested three directors of Alstom in the UK on suspicion of bribery and corruption.
The SFO’s press release, in full: Read more
After a two and half year search, the UK’s biggest sports retailer has finally found someone brave enough to take on the job of chairman. 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.
What is it about Irish banks?
The Serious Fraud Office has commenced an investigation, together with City of London Police, into an alleged fraud on the Corporate Banking Department of Allied Irish Banks Plc. Read more