24 May 2021
Mining firm Eurasian Natural Resources Corporation (ENRC) is suing Serious Fraud Office (SFO) and a City law firm Dechert over allegations of corruption and bribery. ENRC was founded by three billionaire Kazakh businessmen and the Kazakh government.
ENRC’s claim for £70m in damages from the SFO far exceeds the anti-fraud watchdog’s annual budget. ENRC was formerly a FTSE 100 miner, which was taken private in 2013 following the allegations of corruption.
The SFO first announced a criminal probe into ENRC, focused on allegations of fraud, bribery and corruption around the acquisition of substantial mineral assets in Africa. No charges have yet been made in the case.
Gerrard, a former partner of the law firm Dechert was engaged by ENRC between 2011 and 2013 to conduct an internal investigation into allegations of wrongdoing concerning a subsidiary of the mining company. ENRC in its lawsuit claims that Gerrard sought to expand his investigations to generate more fees for Dechert, in that, at times he employed more than 50 Dechert fee earners. He also made damaging disclosures to the SFO and deliberately leaked confidential information about ENRC to the press.
According to ENRC lawyer, Gerrard originally estimated that the ENRC investigation would cost £170,000 + VAT in fees, and that it would be conducted by himself and one assistant. The mining company eventually paid Dechert $18m, with 50 fee earners working on the case.
Gerrard was originally retained by ENRC in 2010 when he was a partner at DLA Piper. He moved to Dechert in 2011. ‘This is the cash cow that he is going to take with him that’s going to justify his rather large increase in pay when he moves firms,” said ENRC Lawyer.
Former interim director Mark Thompson and David Green, who held the reins in SFO for six years, are among those who have been called to testify in the 11-week trial.