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More Money Needed To Combat Defence’s Forensic Accountants – 3 Feb 2014

Member: Nifa

The Serious Fraud Office (SFO) has this week asked the Government for more money to help it press on with its cases against people and firms it suspects of serious financial misconduct.  The SFO’s budget has fallen from £52m to £28m this year but it has the power to ask for extra ‘blockbuster’ funding when in the midst of large-scale enquiries, so it is asking for a further £19m, having already received an extra £5m for 2013-14.

Amongst other things, the cash will go towards investigating various allegations of bribery, corruption and fraud but it will also help the SFO pay for litigation associated with its failed inquiry into the Tchenguiz brothers, who are suing it for £300m after the case against them collapsed.  The brothers’ claim has spiralled into a mammoth disclosure exercise expected to cost the SFO up to £1.2m in legal fees. The brothers and their companies are seeking damages for trespass, wrongful arrest, human rights breaches, misfeasance in public office, which include the retention of material seized by the SFO, and malicious prosecution after their arrest in March 2011.

The property tycoons were arrested in connection with the collapse of the Icelandic bank Kaupthing but the arrest was later declared unlawful by a senior UK judge.  Now, both brothers are out to reclaim their good name and compensation, so the onus will be on the SFO to prove that the original charges were based on real evidence, as the case was partly dismissed on the lack of verified evidence against Vincent Tchenguiz and the weight of evidence Robert Tchenguiz’s legal team could provide in his defence.

To that end, the agency are looking to engage more expert witnesses, such as forensic accountants, but it could well be that the brothers’ defence team already has more than enough to prove their own case.  No doubt all will be revealed when the trial starts in October.

Author: Roger Isaacs, 3 February 2014

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