Global Investigations Review - The law and practice of international investigations


Thursday, 23 January 2020

SFO closes longest-running investigation

The UK Serious Fraud Office (SFO) closed its long-running investigation into shuttered textiles company Polly Peck in November 2019, according to a freedom of information request.

The investigation had been open since 1990, and was the SFO’s longest-running case, having passed through the hands of all but one of its nine directors.

Polly Peck’s former chairman Asil Nadir fled to Turkish Cyprus in 1993 after the SFO charged him with embezzling millions from the company. Nadir returned to the UK in 2010 to face trial and was sentenced to 10 years in prison in 2012.

A spokesperson for the SFO reportedly told Cypriot media on 14 November that the case was still open, but did not give any further explanation.

Dos Santos under investigation by Angolan authorities

Angola’s attorney general is reportedly investigating Isabel dos Santos, the daughter of the country’s former president, over alleged corruption at the nation’s state oil company, Sonangol. 

The news follows after a consortium of journalists revealed that Dos Santos, who formerly led Sonangol, had embezzled over $2 billion from Angola. Dos Santos has denied wrongdoing. 

A partner at PwC, which has been implicated in the alleged illicit scheme, has reportedly resigned following the revelations. PwC is conducting an internal investigation into the matter. 

Angola has reportedly reached out to Portugal for assistance with its Sonangol investigaiton. 

Nigerian anti-financial crime chief frustrated over UK inaction on corruption case

The acting head of Nigeria’s Economic and Financial Crimes Commission Ibrahim Magu has reportedly hit out at the UK National Crime Agency for “protecting” Diezani Alison-Madueke, the former petroleum minister accused of money laundering and bribery.

During her time in office, between 2010 and 2015, Nigeria’s state-owned National Petroleum Corporation reportedly lost over $20 billion. 

Magu pushed for Alison-Madueke’s extradition in 2018, two years after she was arrested in London, because UK authorities had allegedly failed to take legal action against her.

He reportedly said that Nigeria has enough evidence to prosecute the former minister, and questioned why UK authorities would not want to cooperate in the matter.

Credit Suisse counter-sues over Tuna Bond loans

Swiss bank Credit Suisse submitted a counter claim at the High Court of England and Wales on 21 January, arguing that a $622 million loan guaranteed by the Mozambique government was valid and should be repaid, Reuters reports.

Mozambique filed the original claim against the bank in August, asking the court to cancel its debt and force Credit Suisse to compensate the country for losses incurred from the “Tuna Bond” scandal, in which Credit Suisse and Russian lender VTB Capital raised $2 billion in government-guaranteed loans to purchase fishing boats and naval vessels.

Renault facing scrutiny from French anti-corruption body

France’s Anti-Corruption Agency (AFA) is conducting “routine checks” at French carmaker Renault, according to Reuters.

The probe reportedly began in December 2019, shortly before former boss Carlos Ghosn’s dramatic flight from prosecutors in Japan. Ghosn faced investigation over his finances during his time as head of the company.

There is no explicit indication that AFA case relates to the charges against Ghosn, but a source told Reuters that the scandal may have prompted the agency’s checks.

Created in 2016 under Sapin II, France’s sweeping anti-corruption law, the AFA has the power to assess a company’s compliance with the legislation’s anti-corruption requirements. 

Former executives found liable over collapse of Russian bank

The High Court of England and Wales has ordered three former executives of collapsed Russian bank National Bank Trust to pay £687 million in compensation over allegations they defrauded Russia by concealing the bank’s financial troubles. 

Ilya Yurov, Sergey Belyaev and Nikolay Fetisov allegedly deceived the Central Bank of Russia by lending billions to offshore companies which they owned to make the bank appear financial viable shortly before it collapsed in 2014, according to the decision. 

Russia paid US$1 billion to bail out the bank, according to the decision. 

The trio allegedly fled to London in 2014. The National Bank Trust obtained a worldwide freezing order on the trio's assets in 2016. 

Australian bank staff under investigation in German tax case

Australia’s largest investment bank Macquarie told shareholders on 23 January that German prosecutors have designated approximately 60 current and former bank staff as suspects in their investigation into “an historical German lending transaction”.

The probe concerns the Australian bank’s funding of so-called  cum-ex tax schemes, in which dividend sales are executed just before dividend rights expire and allow both the seller and buyer to claim tax reimbursements.

The bank told shareholders in 2018 that it was cooperating with an investigation by Cologne’s Public Prosecutors’ office. In its latest announcement, Macquarie said no current employees have been interviewed by the investigating authorities.

S&P Global reported in 2016 that Macquarie was the first bank to settle with German tax authorities over the scandal, paying out around $100 million.

SEC awards whistleblowers in two fraud cases

The US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) announced in a 22 January press release that it has awarded two whistleblowers a total of $322,000 in separate fraud cases. 

In the first matter, the SEC awarded a whistleblower $277,000 for alerting the agency to a fraudulent scheme. The SEC also awarded $45,000 to a harmed investor who aided the recovery of stolen assets. 

According to the statement, the SEC has paid a total of $387 million to 72 whistleblowers since its first award in 2012.

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