U.K. Fraud Office Tries to Force ENRC to Hand Over Documents

Let’s Not Repeat The City’s Embarrassing Mistakes Over Sovereign-controlled Firms

The U.K. Serious Fraud Office petitioned a London judge to force Eurasian Natural Resources Corp. to hand over documents the company says are subject to legal privilege, in the latest chapter of a long-running criminal probe, Bloomberg reported.

The SFO and ENRC, now known as Eurasian Resources Group, appeared Monday in court. Legal privilege protects communications containing confidential advice between a client and attorney — and other materials prepared for possible litigation — from being disclosed.

The SFO opened an investigation into ENRC in 2013 over allegations that bribes were paid to win business in Kazakhstan and Africa. That same year the company delisted from the London Stock Exchange and changed its name to ERG. Last year, the SFO sought extra funding from the government for the investigation in an indication the case may be picking up pace.

The U.K. prosecutor has come up against a number of companies seeking to assert legal privilege to prevent documents being turned over. Barclays Plc ended a long-running dispute with the agency last year by opting to hand over documents it had previously claimed were covered by privilege just weeks before their court date. The SFO is investigating payments made by the British bank to Qatari investors as part of an emergency fundraising at the height of the 2008 financial crisis.

Remind, that the driver of the shake-up is the Kazakh government, which was deeply embarrassed by the storm of negative publicity around ENRC and now holds a 40 per cent stake in ERG, with Bakhyt Sultanov, sitting on the board.