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Britain’s Serious Fraud Office has dropped a decade-long investigation into Kazakh mining company ENRC, bringing to a close a bitter case that has plunged the SFO into a legal battle.
Securities and Futures Ordinance explain On Thursday, it closed its case against ENRC “concluding that we did not have sufficient admissible evidence to prosecute”. The findings did not result in any charges against the company, which the agency previously said was focused on “fraud, bribery and corruption surrounding the acquisition of substantial mineral assets”.
British investigators also closed other unrelated cases on Thursday, including a corruption probe into Rio Tinto and an investigation into alleged pension fraud by Alpha and Green Park.
The decisions are a blow to the SFO and come at a sensitive time for the agency, with the agency’s director, Lisa Osofsky, set to step down after completing a five-year term. Ossofsky will leave at the end of September and will be replaced by Nick Ephgrave, a former assistant commissioner of the Metropolitan Police.
Ossofsky’s tenure was marred by a series of lapses in the SFO’s disclosure process that led to the abandonment of multiple criminal trials. The ENRC case was first investigated by her predecessor, Sir David Green.
An investigation into ENRC launched in April 2013 led to the mining group’s drop from the FTSE 100 and its eventual privatization. The investigation focuses on alleged bribes paid to secure mining contracts in the Democratic Republic of Congo, a country with one of the world’s richest copper and cobalt reserves. The cash-strapped SFO received special government funding to conduct the investigation.
In a years-long legal battle, ENRC sued the SFO, alleging wrongdoing in its investigations. While parts of that civil case are still pending in court, the SFO is largely clear of any wrongdoing.
ENRC also sued the Financial Times and a former journalist for defamation, but dropped those charges last year.
An SFO spokesman said the closure of the case reflected the agency’s new system, following advice from the Crown Prosecution Service’s Inspectorate, to more regularly and rigorously assess the progress of cases.
Closing the case would also free up resources for the incoming director to work on a new investigation.
An ENRC spokesman said: “ENRC is pleased that the SFO has finally concluded its investigation and that no further action has been taken by the SFO on this matter.”
Also on Thursday, the Securities and Futures Office concluded investigations into “alleged corruption” by Anglo-Australian mining company Rio Tinto and the Republic of Guinea.
“We have concluded that it would not be in the public interest to bring proceedings in the UK,” the SFO said on its website, noting that the on-site investigation is continuing in Australia.
“We are committed to conducting business with the highest standards of integrity,” Rio Tinto said.