LONDON (Within the Law) - The Serious Fraud Office (SFO) is today facing another set of damaging allegations made against it by mining company, Eurasian Natural Resources Corporation (ENRC). Acting on behalf of the company, Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan filed a new legal claim, suggesting that a former staffer at the SFO held private 'off book' meetings with specific journalists.
ENRC is alleging that during these meetings, sensitive and confidential information relating to an ENRC’s internal investigation was leaked to the press.
ENRC have accused the SFO of an “endemic culture” of leaking and covert briefings.”
The claim in particular focuses on an alleged meeting between former SFO staffer, Mr John Gibson, now a partner at London based law firm Cohen & Gresser, and FT journalist and author Mr Tom Burgis.
The ENRC are claiming that the SFO provided information to Burgis, without their consent. This information is said to have then been used in the authors book, Kleptopia and featured in subsequent articles published by the Financial Times.
The story continues to shock, with fresh allegations seemingly getting more specific as the 8-week court showdown nears. Scheduled to begin on June 7 2021, at the High Court in London, in what has been billed as one of the most highly anticipated cases of the year.
The SFO, Dechert and retired Dechert partner, Neil Gerrard, go up against the ENRC in what should be, the conclusion of a decades long battle. An additional case brought by ENRC against former corporate intelligence fixer and journalist Mark Hollingsworth is scheduled for the winter. This case is also focused on the alleged leaking of private information and its subsequent use in legal proceedings against the mining firm.
The Lawyer publication has confirmed it has seen documents which make claims that Gibson regularly met with Tom Burgis.
An ENRC spokesperson said: “We have evidence of Gibson meeting journalists including Burgis, even on occasion at the SFO offices. Gibson and the SFO will have to explain the reason for these meetings.
"One of the most recent interactions between Gibson and Burgis was a covert meeting on 29 September 2020, first in an underground car park and then at Mr Gibson’s house.
"In light of the failure of the SFO's Director to investigate the issue of press leaks, ENRC calls on the Attorney General to exercise her legal responsibility to superintend the SFO by commissioning an independent review into the SFO's handling of these matters.
"The ENRC strongly denies any wrongdoing.”
We contacted the Serious Fraud Office for comment. They informed us they would not be able to comment or make any statement on this matter at this time.
The cases continue.
(Written and edited by Michael O'Sullivan)