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High Court refuses to make order to stop Serious Fraud Office conducting investigations

R (o.t.a Soma Oil & Gas) v Director of the Serious Fraud Office [2016] EWHC 2471

The High Court has dismissed a challenge from Soma, an oil and gas company, to stop the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) from conducting investigations.

Soma invested large sums of money in looking at oil and gas extraction in Somalia.  Their funding infrastructure was subject to investigations by SFO.  The investigation began in June 2015.  Soma cooperated but wanted the matter to be concluded.  By May 2016, SFO stated that they needed to investigate several other matters.  Soma commenced proceedings on 10th August 2016 to have the investigation stopped.

On 16th August 2016, SFO wrote a letter to Soma, providing an update on its investigation, an action it described as a unique exception.  It acknowledged that there was at that point insufficient evidence of criminality in relation to the capacity-building payments.  However, it stated that investigation of other matters was to continue, although SFO did not specify what these other matters were.  At Court, Soma pressed for a mandatory order in respect of both capacity-building and the other matters aspects of the investigations.  The SFO stated that it was pursuing the investigation as expeditiously as it could, but was depending on getting responses from abroad.

The Court dismissed the capacity-building challenge on the basis that the SFO’s letter of 16th August had given Soma all the information the court could have given it.  It also found that the request for information regarding the other matters had become a request that SFO disclose the nature of its inquiries.  The Court therefore held that there was no basis to ‘compel further disclosure of a continuing investigation into serious crime, with sensitive international dimensions.’  It found that under EU law concerning the rights to information in criminal proceedings was silent on the issue of providing information to a suspect about investigative lines of inquiry.

Read UK Human Rights Blog article here.

Tags
Criminal Law, Disclosure