SFO drops case against mining chief

The Serious Fraud Office (SFO) has abandoned its case against the head of mining company Eurasian Resources Group (ERG).

The ERG said today that ‘following a review of the matter’, the SFO had decided to discontinue its case against its chief executive Benedikt Sobotka.

The case related to Sobotka’s non-appearance for questioning as a witness in relation to the SFO’s long running investigation into ERG subsidiary, the Eurasian Natural Resources Corporation (ENRC). Having initially ordered an arrest warrant the SFO subsequently withdrew the order and instead applied to Westminster Magistrates’ Court to issue a summons for Sobotka to appear, but it has now abandoned that application as well.

Kevin Roberts, a partner at international firm Morrison & Foerster, and who represents Sobotka, said: ‘We have always maintained Mr Sobotka had no case to answer and we are pleased the SFO has discontinued these proceedings.’

At the time the arrest warrant was withdrawn Roberts said the behaviour of the SFO had been disappointing. ‘There was clearly no reasonable basis for a warrant in the first place which seemed more designed to intimidate the CEO of a multinational company rather than to progress matters and address the key issues,’ he said.

A separate battle between the SFO and ENRC which surrounded legal professional privilege was heard at the Court of Appeal earlier this year. ENRC successfully appealed against a High Court order that would have allowed the SFO to request confidential documents ENRC prepared for its own internal investigation.

Sobotka was never an employee of ENRC nor was he ever a suspect in the investigation.

An SFO spokesperson said: ’The SFO keeps all prosecutions under review in accordance with the Code for Crown Prosecutors. On such a review a decision was taken to discontinue a prosecution against Mr Sobotka, for failure to attend an interview contrary to Section 2(13) of the Criminal Justice Act 1987. We cannot comment further as the investigation into ENRC continues.’

The Law Society Gazette | November 6, 2018
https://www.lawgazette.co.uk/law/sfo-drops-case-against-mining-chief/5068210.article